8th November 2019 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot

No. 1.(GS-2 Mains)

Question – Analyze the various challenges posed by online political advertising to democracy. Suggest measures to overcome these challenges.   (250 words)

Context – 

  1. On October 31, Twitter announced that it will no longer carry political advertisements as the power of Internet advertising “brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes”. On the other hand, Facebook has said it will not fact-check political advertisements as it does not want to stifle free speech.
  2. Case of Cambridge analytica and Facebook 

Online vs offline political advertising:

  1. Personalized targeting or micro targeting:- Online advertising allows, especially on social networks, for a kind of targeting that wasn’t possible at the same level before. Earlier, if you wanted to target a particular segment of people for your political messaging, you could find out what kind of magazines they subscribe to and put fliers in those magazines. But you couldn’t engage in personalised targeting based on multiple attributes that is possible through platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Micro targeted advertising makes it possible for two people connected to the Internet from the same source, using the same equipment, studying in the same school or college, working in the same workplace, and living in the same habitat to get two different advertisements.
  2. Invisibility nature:-  If there’s a billboard in the real world, everyone gets to see it. However, if there’s targeted advertising on a social media platform, not everyone gets to know about it except the person for whom it is targeted. 

Impact of Online advertising:


  1. Increase in the voter turnout ratio. Election commission also taking assistance of these digital platforms to increase this ratio. 
  2. Reduce the cost for advertising to political parties by reaching masses with efficiency. 
  3. Expand the reach of political parties for supporters. 

What are the challenges and limitations?

  1. Manufacturing consent:- Micro-targeting has got potentially damaging results in the context of political advertising, particularly for elections. These platforms make it possible to go from manufacturing consent to manipulating consent. A person is continuously fed with information to vote for a particular party. Content is filtered based upon the caste and class . 
  2. Lack of accountability :- Platforms, particularly Facebook, have been washing their hands of the issue saying they are only intermediaries providing space; that the content is being generated by the people to be consumed by the people, and they have no role to play. But  business model of Facebook, Google, or any of the platforms clearly provide micro-targeting, or allow people to be manipulated for a particular purpose. So, these platforms can’t just wash their hands of the issue. Further , There is an issue regarding who should be accountable whether people who are saying these things or platforms providing the space to them.
  3. Impinge free and fair election:- Political advertising should be considered different from normal advertising as earlier has immense potential to subvert democratic processes.  Election commission and representation of the people act mandate that people should be allowed to take clear stand about the effectiveness of government in last tenure and to decide how to vote. 
  4. Lack of transparency in these corporation providing platforms in the context of election. 
  5. Legislation related to the reasonable restrictions and freedom of speech and freedom of the press are not applied to the political advertising.
  6. Lack capacity of election commission:- EC has said that it does not have the manpower and infrastructure to handle all these issues on digital platform and no control over police in normal period too. 
  7. Fake news and advertising 

Steps taken:

  1. The social media intermediary members of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) adopted a voluntary code of ethics for the general elections 2019. Participant like Google, sharechat , Twitter agreed to establish high priority communication channel with nodal officer of EC and also agreed to take action against the content reported by nodal officer expeditiously in accordance with law. 
  2. All these platforms committed in general election that during campaign period, they would not allow anything adversely affecting level playing field during the last 48 hours before the close of poll, they had committed that nothing of elections would  be allowed on their platforms. 
  3. Facebook Inc was  fined a symbolic 500,000 pounds ($664,000) by the UK’s privacy regulator after the social network giant failed to prevent key user data falling into the hands of a political consultancy that helped get President Donald Trump elected.


  1. Umesh Sinha committee report on section 126 of RPA Act:-
    1. The panel had  suggested that the provision of “election silence” be extended to cover print and social media, internet, cable channels and online version of print media. And that social media agencies be asked to label political advertisements to separate them from other content, and maintain an account of expenditure incurred by political parties and candidates for advertising on their platforms.
    2. Social media platforms should work with the EC to evolve a mechanism by which the latter can flag content violating electoral law and social media sites can take it down as soon as possible.

Global practices: 

  1. USA :- In the U.S., all broadcasters are required by law not to censor on the basis of the content of political advertising. Which means that broadcasters in the U.S. cannot say to a candidate, ‘this advertisement that you’ve sent to us contains a lie and we’re not going to associate ourselves with the lie and we’re not going to carry it’.

Way forward 

  1. Election commission should develop infrastructure for monitoring political advertising and issue concrete guidelines to these platform. EC may seek assistance of other departments capable of monitoring these.  Provision of RPA for free and fair elections should be strictly implemented. Election commission can get transparency commitment from biggest players like what’s up , facebook etc. about who made this advertising and made payment for it. This information should be made public. This will reduce the invisibility issue. 
  2. Every country has its own interpretation of freedom of speech and expression. Indian democracy is far different than the US democracy. Hence India should chart out its own model of regulating the political advertising without impinging upon the spirit of free and fair elections.


No. 2.( GS-2 Mains)

Today there is another article titled ‘Junking fast food’. Here are the important highlights:

  • Recently Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FASSI) has notified a draft regulation aimed at prohibiting the sale and advertisement of food rich in fat, sugar, and salt to school children inside the school premises and within 50 meters around it.
  • Besides prohibition FASSI has also directed the schools to simultaneously encourage healthy, safe and balanced diets in schools.
  • It also prohibits those companies which manufacture unhealthy food items from advertising or offering for free such foods in school premises and within 50 meters of the campus.
  • Also to prohibit luring children by these companies to consume their rich in fat, sugar and salt items, FASSI prohibited them from using their logos, brand names and product names on books and other educational materials, as well as school property such as buildings, buses, and athletic fields.
  • Along with it, it also provided a list of balanced wholesome foods that can be offered in schools.
  •  The notification was the response to the 2015 guidelines of the Delhi High Court that had directed the central agency to frame norms to promote healthy diets in schools.
  • The paradox should be noted that even as malnutrition accounted for over seven lakh deaths in children in India, India with 14.4 million in 2017, has the second most obese children among 195 countries.

Reasons for child obesity:

  • Child obesity and overweight can be the result of a variety of reasons. The most common causes are genetic factors, lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of these factors. Only in rare cases being overweight is caused by a medical condition such as hormonal problems.
  • A child’s total diet and activity level play an important role in determining a child’s weight. Today, many children spend a lot of time being inactive. For example, the average child spends approximately  four hours each day watching television. As computers and video games become increasingly popular, the number of hours of inactivity may increase.

What diseases are obese children at risk of?

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Early heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Bone problems
  • And skin conditions such as heat rash, fungal infection and acne.
  • Also several studies have shown how a western diet affects composition and diversity of gut bacteria and sets the stage for many metabolic diseases.

What can be done/ Way forward:

  • The steps of FASSI should be lauded but only that is not enough. Proper implementation is the key.
  • For example, despite the sale and advertisement of tobacco products within 100 yards of a school being prohibited, violation is more the norm than exception. Shops that sell tobacco products also sell many packaged and unhealthy food that FASSI now bans.
  • Healthy eating habits starts at home so parents must be educated too by the school authorities through meets and sessions.
  • Parents should also encourage children to undertake and participate in physical activity, which is being neglected today for many reasons.
  • Because ultimately it is a combination of healthy food and regular physical activity that will go a long way in bringing up healthy children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *