The objective of the social media policy is to promote the use of media for effective communication among the electoral stakeholders in a responsible manner, to ensure there is a level playing field for all contestants and parties in the elections.
The Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan (CEC) Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said “such a policy is required to ensure that social media is not exploited to distort the level playing field and legal provisions are upheld”.
Social media is defined as online mobile communications, collaboration, sharing or publishing platform whether accessed through the web, a mobile device, text message, email or emerging communication platform.
The spokesperson of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) Dr. Tandi Dorji said “There will not be misuse of social media as such but there should be a social etiquette”.
The party has already asked ECB for about its rules in regard to the social media as the party is midway to develop their own social media strategy.
“It won’t be possible for ECB to restrict social media as other informal channels will come-up,” said the DNT spokesperson.
The spokesperson said that whatever means employed by a party or the content of it to reach out to the voters should be truthful. It should not be slander or personal attacks.
The opposition MP from Gasa, Damcho Dorji said that social media really connects people, helps people to exchange views, gives the people a forum to discuss common problems and interests.
“We can keep in contact with them, hear their problems, share our views and government policies and even during emergency over the phone,” said MP Damcho Dorji.
An aspiring politician said that with a literacy rate of 59 % social media is not an influential factor to sway voter opinions in Bhutan.
“How many people would possess the required-IT knowledge to access the information,” he said.
The Secretary General of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) Thinley Gyamtsho said there should be clear-cut rules for the use of social media like Dos and Don’ts during campaign period as well as proper time and place for such usage.
He said that it is good for the voters to have a bigger choice but if there is no restriction then rich people will have a better chance to reach out to the voters.
If it so happens that a so-called medium will be tantamount to shift or sway in the opinions of the electorate, the Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT) spokesperson, Tandin Tshering, said that “Social media is not the only way to get in touch with voters, there are other ways to contact them”.
The DCT spokesperson said the rural people who make-up for a good bunch as voters will in fact not be affected in any way by such a thing called ‘social media’.
The people that The Bhutanese spoke to are of the view that social media would mislead the voters but majority feels that it is a good initiative taken by ECB to reach out to the voters.
“It is entirely in the minds of the voters which will be more or less decided by some point, so some whispers on the internet may not make a difference,” said Wangdi, 41 a civil servant.
In the international arena, no one has best displayed the power of social media more than the US President Barack Obama.
During the last Presidential elections in the US, Barack Obama used social media in a manner that made every American feel like they were a part of the election process. His fans and supporters’ participation on the Internet to voice their support was overwhleming from the very beginning, and with online marketing tools the messages went virile overnight.spread the message like wildfire.