There is one section of the media commenting on Cambridge Analytica which is strongly critical of the developments in the Cambridge Analytica incident that Digital marketing agencies are manipulating public opinion through campaigns designed by profiling the voters. In the context of the forthcoming election in Karnataka, it is being stated that some Digital marketing companies are engaged in an unethical activity of trying to change the mindset of the voters.
In these discussions, the media has been completely hypocritical and their bluff needs to be called. Every marketing activity in the world is changing the decision of the target audience to take a favourable decision about a product. Marketing per-se is therefore a legitimate activity. In Marketing or Advertising however we make a distinction between “Ethical” and “Unethical” communication.
If the Advertiser is making false propositions through his advertisement, it is unethical and fraudulent and needs to be condemned. But if the advertiser is using a creative communication to make the target audience believe that the product being marketed is beneficial to him because it has some features , X,Y, Z, then it is perfectly legitimate.
Similarly, in the election advertising, what we the citizens as well as the Election commission has to see is whether the message used in the advertisement is true, false or utterly false and misleading.
As regards profiling, it is for the marketing agencies to use their own analysis of the data available to them to decide what communication is good for a given audience. If this is called “Profiling”, it is nothing but “Market Segmentation”.
Hence the objections to the profiling activities of Digital marketing Companies is misplaced since the same objections can be placed on every other advertisement including the advertisement for a chocolate or for IPL.
Another major objection I have for media talking about “Trying to manipulate the voter’s mind” through advertising by digital media marketers is to ask a question to these media gurus whether journalism is nothing but creating “opinions” and “Changing opinions”?.
Every media article is written with the objective of conveying an opinion. The days of “Factual Reporting” which was happening in Government controlled AIR and DD in the past is no longer there.
Most TV news today is about “Debates” in which different political parties speak to support their own political agenda and the Anchors provide opportunities for spokespersons to speak lies after lies in the interest of “Balancing” the debate. Depending on the Anchor’s own prejudice, they add to the lies. The entire debate is therefore only directed towards forming a public opinion and there is no ethics in TV journalism today.
In the Karnataka election, Rahul Gandhi speaks of “Being against Corruption” and “Being Religious”. Is there a greater joke than such statements?. The journalists of all hue and cry talk as if these statements deserve to be publicised in TV and not censored straight away by the anchor at the debate table.
If journalists want to complain about Digital Marketing and “Tampering with the voter’s mind” then they should first stop the false campaigns they make on TV debates with the hope that some of the audience will get converted.
But what these journalists donot understand is that public are intelligent and they can see through the statements of the politicians immediately. Most debates therefore are a waste of time and audience are either not listening or listen selectively.
I therefore urge that media should think of changing their debate style and eliminate all political spokespersons from the debate and stick to discussion of issues by professionals who can comment on the issue irrespective of whether it is advantageous to one political party or the other.
The election commission should see how they can regulate these debates in which false statements are made deliberately and maliciously. These are worse than advertisements and should be stopped on ground of “Ethics” as well as “Fraud” on the voters.
Will the election commission be fair Will the Journalists be honest in this respect?