The parliamentary elections under way in India are markedly different from any other until now.
In the last five years, the country has seen an exponential increase in the use of smartphones and Internet penetration, two factors that have a great influence on voters.
India has more than 450 million smart phone owners today, about three times the 155 million it had in 2014 when the last Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) elections were held, according to Neil Shah, director of Research of Counterpoint Research.
The phenomenon has been largely supported by an influx of cheap Chinese smartphones. For example, Xiaomi, who He entered India in 2014 and celebrated fair around 3% market share In 2015, it is now maintained. more than 30%. Other similar players includes Vivo with a market share of 10% and Oppo (7%).
With the expanding smartphone user base, the internet has arrived more than 566 million Indians
This is also supported by The Reliance Jio telecommunications service, which offers internet at very cheap prices. In 2019, the number of internet users in India is It is estimated that it will touch 627 million..
The country now has 300 million Facebook users and around 200 million users of WhatsApp.
"The impact of using social media for political campaigns has become uglier since 2014," said Varun Vardhan, an independent political campaign manager based in Delhi. "Today, the biggest strategic decisions of national interest are open to public opinion on social networks, even before a problem arises in its entirety. This is particularly dangerous since most of the debates on social networks are misinformed or are completely false. "
The political parties now have new ways to spread their agenda. In addition to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, there are local companies such as ShareChat and Dailyhunt that have become Popular platforms for politically motivated messages..
There are also popular Chinese applications, such as the TikTok video generation platform and the local language news application Helo in India, which have fueled concerns about documented videos, false news and hate speech, particularly during elections.
"The access through several intermediaries through which the news publishers themselves have limited control is much more in India than for users of online news in a market like the United States." a study by said the Reuters Institute. Although the government and companies have taken steps to stop the spread of false news, after causing numerous cases of violence, the monitoring of each publication generated by users is not practical, he added.