Manipulation of popular verdict with technology


Often, it is seen that the results of elections in the country do not match the prevailing mood of the voters and common expectations. Mostly, the ruling party despite being at the receiving end because of its downright anti-people policies, abatement to corruption, nepotism, self-aggrandizement of the ministers and so forth, is found to sweep in the elections. For example, it was really a surprise how could the BJP win the 2019 parliament election with such a thumping majority and how could PM Modi claim before conclusion of the elections that he had received the desired majority. In the last Gujarat assembly election also, many anomalies were detected few examples of which were published in Proletarian Era dated 15 January 2023. Obvious question that arises is whether the elections are free and fair or tampered with. This question further gains ground in view of the fact that modern information technology (IT) is reported to be capable of doing many miracles and electioneering today is based on IT, EVM (Electronic Voting Machine) being one of the key tool. Many a time, experts have demonstrated how the machine can be manipulated to skew the votes in favour of one candidate no matter in whose favour the electorates had exercised their franchisee. But neither the government nor the Election Commission (EC), which regrettably has become an appendage to the ruling dispensation, took any cognizance of that and claimed everything to be hunky dory.
It bears recall that the EC in a letter issued in last December end that an initiative was being taken to introduce a ‘remote voting machine (RVM) system’ for migrant voters and invited all recognized national (8) and regional (57) political parties for a discussion on this issue on 16 January 2023. Earlier, in November 2022, the EC told the law ministry that it was ‘‘technically and administratively ready’’ to extend the Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System (ETPBS) to NRI voters for elections in 2021 in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry. In fact, the process started in 2014 when the EC decided to work on permitting Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to cast their votes remotely in response to requests from the Ministry of Overseas Affairs and Rajya Sabha MP Naveen Jindal. Postal voting was proposed as a solution and consultations with various groups were held. However, none of these proposals could be implemented as the opposition parties refused to approve those because of obvious reasons. The ruling BJP was so keen to operationalize the suggested remote voting that a Bill to amend the Representation of People Act, 1950 and the Representation of People Act, 1951 was brought in December 2017. Though the Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on 9 August 2018, the 16th Lok Sabha was dissolved while the Bill was awaiting Rajya Sabha’s approval. Therefore, it lapsed.
Now that when the BJP-led government is seeking to rake up the issue again, an explosive report has been published in The Guardian, the well-known British daily on 15 and 16 February 2023, based on an undercover investigation done by three journalists—from Radio France, Haaretz and The Marker. The investigation revealed about an Israel-based company ‘‘Demoman International’’, which has been electronically manipulating elections in different countries, including India for more than two decades by using ‘‘a sophisticated software package, …which controls a vast army of fake social media profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Telegram, Gmail, Instagram and YouTube and has Amazon accounts with credit cards, bitcoin wallets and Airbnb accounts’’.
This company is run by Hanan, a former operator in Israeli special forces, who now works privately using the pseudonym ‘‘Jorge’’ and his group offers services to manipulate public opinion through hacking and other methods. It claims involvement in dozens of key elections around the world and having manipulated more than 30 elections around the world, the investigation unveiled. The company, as was revealed, could gather intelligence on rivals by using hacking techniques to access Gmail and Telegram accounts and plant material in legitimate news outlets, which was then amplified by a specific malware. This company has sold access to their malware ‘the Aims’ to unnamed intelligence agencies, political parties and corporate clients. Demonstrating the Aims interface, they scrolled through dozens of avatars, and showed to the investigating team ‘‘how fake profiles could be created in an instant, using tabs to choose nationality and gender and then matching profile pictures to names’’. It can harvest pictures from social media and paste on the fake profiles it creates. The Guardian and its reporting partners tracked Aims-linked bot activity across the internet which created fake social media campaigns, in about 20 countries including the UK, the US, Canada, Germany, Greece, Panama, Switzerland, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, the United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe, Belarus, Ecuador and India.
The Israeli sophisticated software package Aims has been used to manipulate more than 30 elections around the world by creating chaos in a rival’s election campaign, fake propaganda, sabotage and automated disinformation on social media. The company had contributed in manipulating the general election in Kenya. Four weeks before a pivotal presidential election in Nigeria, an Israeli private operative specializing in political ‘‘black ops’’ was preparing his trip to the country. On 17 January 2015 the man, who used the alias ‘‘Jorge’’, emailed Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy he was coordinating with on a covert plan to manipulate Africa’s largest democracy. The investigating team of ‘The Guardian’ has exposed all these.
Though no direct documentary evidence was given by the investigating team to prove that elections in India in 2014 and 2019 were hacked and manipulated using this Israeli software, the possibility remains as India appears on the list of client countries. It needs investigation to substantiate this claim. We know that Indian government has used Pegasus to track the mobile phones of the citizens, though it did not admit the same, despite revelations made by the mobile operating companies. As we have said above, the surprising poll verdicts did leave scope for raising doubt whether some manoeuvring was undertaken with the help of technology to doctor the results. EVM has always been under a cloud, because even in the country which has developed it, does not use it for their election. All over the world paper ballot is used in elections. Although many political parties are demanding to revert to ballot paper mode, the BJP government and the EC are adamant to continue with EVM for reasons they refuse to divulge.
In this regard, it is pertinent to reiterate that more imperialism-capitalism is becoming crisis-ridden and reactionary, more it is converting the vote-based parliamentary system into just a façade stripped of its essence. So, the ruling bourgeoisie and its servitor parties can no longer allow people to vote according to their conscience and elect party or parties of their choice. Hence the ruling class and its faithful parties use all the powers at their command-money, muscle, media, administrative and technological—to rig the elections and ascend to the throne at any cost. It is because of this they wax eloquent about modern technology which can turn day into night.

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