11:25 GMT13 April 2021
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    Google has updated its advertisement policy ahead of India’s general elections expected to be held by April-May this year. The announcement comes against the backdrop of criticism the search engine faced last year for allegedly serving as a tool to manipulate voters’ perception of certain political parties.

    Google India, on Tuesday, announced a transparent political advertising policy ahead of the upcoming general elections in India wherein more than 850 million voters are expected to elect the country's new government. Google India has said it will introduce an India-specific Political Advertising Transparency Report and searchable Political Ads Library ahead of the elections. The report and library will provide comprehensive information about who is purchasing election ads on Google platforms and how much money is being spent.

    READ MORE: Zuckerberg Faces Flak in India for Elections Remark

    "We're thinking hard about elections and how we continue to support democratic processes in India and around the world. In line with this, we are bringing more transparency to election advertising online, and surfacing relevant information to help people better navigate the electoral process", Chetan Krishnaswamy, director of public policy, Google India said.

    According to the updated advertisement policy for India, the advertiser will require securing a certificate issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI), or anyone authorised by the ECI, for each advertisement they wish to run on the Google platform. Further, Google will verify the identity of advertisers before their election ads run on its platforms. The advertiser verification process will begin on 14 February 2019. 

    "Election ads on Google platforms will also disclose who has paid for the ad", a statement issued by Google India reads. 

    During the 2014 general elections, it was claimed by analysts that the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) had campaigned so well on the social media platforms that it skewed voters mind in its favour.

    READ MORE: India Refuses Permission to Google for 'Street View' App

    The BJP had set up a "digital war room" comprising graduates from the elite Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management to manage its digital presence.

    In May 2014, Psychologist Robert Epstein found that search engines have the potential to profoundly influence voters without them noticing the impact. Epstein has coined a term for this power: Search Engine Manipulation Effect, with the acronym SEME.

    Google has been facing similar charges in the US. Last month, Google's CEO Sundar Pichai was grilled for more than three hours by US lawmakers about search result bias and the data Google collects.


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    manipulation, data, social media, election, Google, Sundar Pichai, India
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