New Delhi: The government on Thursday dismissed reports suggesting that social media will influence at least 160 Lok Sabha constituencies out of 543 during the next General Elections.
Information & Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari and IT and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said voting preferences in a complex country like India is decided on issues and considerations more than anything else.
"I tend to disagree with the suggestion that social media will influence the outcome in 160 seats. The fact remains that voting preferences are decided on issues. Mediums and platforms are only methods of disseminating your views," Tewari said.
Supporting him, Sibal said, "India is such a complex country and to say that a platform will decide the outcome in these constituencies, I do feel it difficult because these constituencies are spread across the country. The voter looks at several aspects."
The ministers were speaking here at a function also attended by cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar.
Tewari, however, supported the view that social media can play a role in political mobilisation. He said use of social media to gather support during the Anna Hazare agitation and country-wide agitation following the Nirbhaya gangrape case have been a "learning experience for us".
At the same time, he expressed concern over the misuse of the platform to foment tension.
"In digital world, we have to make a distinction between right to privacy and right of anonymity," Tewari said, adding that while right to privacy is something the platform must guarantee, the right to anonymity should not be used to launch hate campaigns and target people.
According to a study carried out by Internet and Mobile Association of India and IRIS Knowledge Foundation, social media such as Facebook and Twitter are likely to influence at least 160 Lok Sabha constituencies out of 543 during the next general elections. The study identified 67 constituencies as Medium Impact ones, while the rest have been identified as Low Impact or No Impact constituencies.