… however, tracing anonymous accounts poses challenges 

Dechen Dolkar

The Office of Media Arbitrator has identified over 13 posts that may potentially discredit political parties or sway votes and asked to remove them. 

According to the Office of Media Arbitrator, these posts predominantly concern online polls, defamation, hate speech, third-party advertisements, dissemination of false information, and the sharing of marked postal ballots on social media groups, all of which violate electoral laws.

In accordance with the Media Coverage of Election Rules and Regulations of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2021, the Media Arbitrator oversees all news, programs, advertisements, and social media content during the election period.

An official from the Office of Media Arbitrator mentioned a specific instance where they requested the removal of a post by an individual named Wangcha Sangay in a subsequent social media update.

“His earlier Facebook post titled ‘Painful Election fever of DNT’ was taken down, as it was found to be in violation of electoral laws, where the post could reduce the electoral chances of the political party or be construed as an act to influence the elections,” the official said.

Officials said that they have been actively engaging with personal accounts and group administrators spreading false information and hate messages, and seeking immediate removal of such posts. However, tracing anonymous accounts has been a formidable challenge.

The official said that the office takes action solely if the posts breach electoral laws and ECB rules and regulations, and as of now, no monetary fines have been imposed.

Meanwhile, the Office of Media Arbitrator has received no written complaints regarding social media posts from individuals or political parties.

To aid the Office of Media Arbitrator, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has appointed social media monitors in each dzongkhag, with six officials assisting the Media Arbitrator in Thimphu alone.

These monitors have joined various groups on social media platforms, including Telegram and WhatsApp, for effective monitoring.

The official also said that there is a notable decrease in personal attacks, such as defamation and mudslinging, during this election period compared to past elections. This positive trend is attributed to voter education and awareness initiatives.