Kerala Assembly polls | Candidates face online attacks

As the Assembly election nears, reports have emerged of aggressive online campaigning on social media against a number of candidates. Apart from the already existing fake profiles, many fresh profiles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been created to spearhead the campaign.

The accounts are also getting the support of political workers and social media campaigners of various political parties.

One of the targets of the trolls is the mother of Walayar victims, who has declared her candidacy against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Dharmadam. Though the fake profiles resemble those of Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers, there have been no efforts yet to trace the owners of the accounts. The users are allegedly bullying her into withdrawing her candidacy.

The entry of Revolutionary Marxist Party of India (RMPI) candidate Rema in the election fray has also drawn the attention of many fake accounts. Though Ms. Rema is yet to take it up with the police, party workers are planning to take legal action. In addition to abusive Facebook and Instagram posts, WhatsApp messages are also doing the rounds.

“It is going to be a dangerous trend. The attacked people remain silent only because they fear more targeted attacks if they express open protest. It can be controlled only by taking spot action and the removal of such profiles now itself,” said the official social media campaigner of a candidate in Kozhikode district. He also said the police were not taking strict action against such complaints.

Differences over the selection of candidates in various Assembly constituencies had first triggered heated discussions, leading to allegations against candidates. Controlling live text messages and abusive language in comments on YouTube and other live webcasting platforms remains difficult.

A senior officer of the Kozhikode Cyberdome said they were yet to get a written petition from any candidate seeking probe into cyber assaults. “It may take time to trace the real identity of fake profiles, but it can be definitely traced. The delay factor should never be a reason to go back from a written petition,” he said.

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