Electoral campaign continues in full swing on cyberspace
While on-ground campaigns for the 11th parliamentary election have come to a close since yesterday morning, the cyberspace continues to be abuzz with contents promoting candidates and political parties.
Hundreds of candidates are running location-based customised campaigns on digital platforms, highlighting them as well as their parties of alliances that are only visible to internet users in their respective constituencies.
Almost all parties and alliances are running election campaigns though digital and online channels, portraying their successes and highlighting failures of their opponents.
Industry insiders said after the Digital Security Act was enacted, people were careful in their use of social media, but targeting the national polls, campaigners are extensively using these platforms.
Candidates and parties are spending about Tk 300 crore to run the “digital shows”, said industry insiders, as hundreds of Facebook pages and YouTube channels are active with those contents.
Industry insiders also said targeting this election, several dozens of new digital marketing companies have been formed, those companies have produced a large volume of content, which is keeping the campaign revving in the “no campaign” period.
Imtiaz Ahmed, lead of operations at Wizards Ad Network, one of the top marketing and advertising agencies in Bangladesh, said the digital segment received huge workflow in the last few months, and the business volume has reached a few hundred crores of taka. After the formal end to campaigns, these contents have become more valuable for electioneering, he said.
According to industry estimates, about Tk 200 crore is being spent for electioneering on digital platforms. SMS and recorded voice message campaigns would add business worth another Tk 100 crore, said Ahmed.
“Political parties and candidates are using digital channels for campaigns this election; it's a new phenomenon in the country.”
Emdadul Hoque, secretary general of Internet Service Providers' Association Bangladesh (ISPAB), said of the total bandwidth use, they are now observing a significant volume being using for digital campaigns.
Both of the main alliances are running their campaigns -- sometimes using their names, and sometimes running it undercover.
Alongside its official Facebook page and YouTube channel, ruling Awami League's publicity is running through countless outlets. Some of them include “Tomar Hatey Tomar Desh”, “Banglar Amra”, “Shomoy Ekhon Amader”, “Amar Joye Banglar Joy”. Videos produced by these pages have been shared hundreds of times.
Public figures of sports and entertainment industries are also active in political campaigns on the social media.
The ruling alliance has also composed and released lots of songs that are playing round the clock on several channels, and in some cases, these songs are now being used as welcome tunes and ringtones on cell phones. This form of campaigning may continue even after the election ends.
Relatively younger contenders in the national polls are using the digital campaigning tools, like Zunaid Ahmed Palak, the youngest state minister in the current cabinet and an Awami League contender in Natore 3.
“This is a new campaign strategy from us, and now more than 30 percent electioneering is being done on digital platforms,” said Palak.
“It is impossible to meet all voters in my constituency face-to-face within the limited time, but digital platforms are giving me the opportunity to reach out to all of them,” he said.
“Voters also feel that I'm in touch with them when they find me on Facebook or YouTube. This show will continue up to the voting time,” Palak added.
Adam Tamizi Haque, managing director of Haque Group of Industries and chairman of Manobik Dhaka, is not participating in the election, but is spending a huge sum of money in digital campaigns for Awami League's “boat” symbol across the country.
On the other hand, several channels and pages are now active during the last-moment campaigning of the opposition alliance Jatiya Oikyafront, including its own official page, said Facebook users.
Of these, some are even operating from outside the country.
Top-listed Facebook pages and channels of the Jatiya Oikyafront are “Stand Up”, “I am Bangladeshi”, “DemoCrazy”, “TholerBiral” and “ShomoyerShakkhi.com”.
BNP's acting chairman Tarique Rahman is running his party's campaign using AndolonNews, a channel that is being moderated from outside the country.
However, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is yet to re-open the official website of BNP, which was blocked in the second week of December.
A market insider said in the last few months, hundreds of new websites were opened, and several hundreds of Facebook pages also started campaigning, which are now playing a significant role in the last few days.
Candidates are also using platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram alongside Facebook and YouTube.
3G, 4G BLOCKED AND RESTORED AGAIN
After blocking 3G and 4G mobile internet services at 10pm on Thursday to downgrade internet speed, BTRC again restored the speed at 8am yesterday.
High-speed mobile internet services may be throttled again before the election, said insiders at BTRC.
If and when the service is blocked, mobile internet users will be unable to stream or upload videos or pictures. Use of communication apps would also be nearly impossible with low-speed 2G mobile internet.
As of November, over 6 crore mobile SIMs are connected to 3G or 4G internet, while total active internet connections stand at 9.18 crore, according to BTRC.
Earlier on December 26, in a meeting with International Internet Gateways (IIGs), the telecom regulator told them if necessary, they will issue orders to block social media sites, especially Facebook, and some other communication applications depending on the situation, and asked the IIGs to take preparations for it.