In the run up to the UP election results, CEC Dr. SY Quraishi called Exit Polls as something that is “best for entertainment channels.” The recent TIME 100 online poll for 2012 seems to take Dr. Quraishi’s observation to a much higher level. That a mere Internet based online poll could become a centre for negativity, false propaganda and misinformation we learnt from the manner in which vested elements ran an orchestrated campaign against Narendra Modi emerging on the list at numero uno position.
Steadily making his way up the list, Modi supporters watched in shock as on the last day of voting Modi was displaced by ‘Anonymous’ as the leader of the list. Not only that, even Erik Martin surged ahead of him to grab the second spot and Narendra Modi’s negative votes shot up. All this happened in less than 12 hours! While this surely isn’t a ‘do or die’ situation for Modi himself, the irregularities and rampant hacking that plagued the manner of voting need to be brought out. [Read: Time Magazine: Look into massive irregularities in Time 100 opinion poll]
TIME magazine surely owes an explanation for a number of irregularities that have afflicted their online poll. It was noticed that Narendra Modi consistently polled his votes whereas Erik Marin and ‘Anonymous’ remained glued between 120,000 and 160,000 for days. What except for mala fide hacking could explain the margin changes in 12 hours? Go by the ‘likes’ and Tweets on the poll and the answer would be crystal clear. Erik Martin garnered a thousand ‘likes’, Anonymous did a shade better with 2000 but Narendra Modi was comfortably placed with 96,000. It is fairly obvious that hacking scriptts and not human voting determined the outcome in the last 12 hours. [Read: Modi supporters writes to TIME editor, demand to declare TIME-100 Poll as Null &Void]
This fiasco leaves behind an extremely sour taste. It is an ugly reminder of the havoc the menace of hacking can unleash. In case of TIME it happened with a mere online opinion poll but in the days to come it can take a more extreme form potentially affecting government data, health records perhaps even classified army documents. Why let anti-social elements taste blood when we are already aware of the consequences?
Equally shameful has been the response of TIME magazine. Even when it became completely obvious that there was wide scale rigging going on, the technical team of TIME and their website simply refused to act, leaving the website unattended. Neither was there any acknowledgment of the problem nor any concrete steps to prevent such negativity. This reminded many netizens of 2009 when there were similar complaints against the poll being hacked but nothing ever happened.
A few days ago, it was only Aparisim Bobby Ghosh, an editor at large with TIME who said, “I’ll bring this to the attention of my colleagues at Time.com” adding that if there is a problem, it will be sorted. This after Modi fans questioned him on the issue at an online chat interaction with CNN IBN. In the same chat, he also said that Narendra Modi’s influence couldn’t be doubted. But his is a one off reaction- one expects the rest of the magazine to speak and act accordingly.
In the midst of all this, when Narendra Modi is at the receiving end how can you expect the Indian media to remain aloof? The same media that was conspicuously silent when Narendra Modi was leading the list hit back the moment he was displaced on the top. In a near ‘Breaking News’ environment it was publicized across the board that Narendra Modi was no longer leading. In fact, when channels were debating the SIT verdict, a leading English channel preferred to say Modi is unpopular only because he topped the ‘negative’ votes tally. When they very well knew that the outcome was rigged, why must they carry it? Is it responsible journalism?
Understandably, these irregularities led to a wave of protests by Modi supporters. Twitter was flooded with Tweets to TIME magazine asking them to look into the irregularities. Some even questioned them for pontificating on fraud elections all over the world but being unable to prevent the same in their own backyard.
Infact, there are a series of online petitions, commenting on the unfortunate state of affairs of the TIME poll. Mashable reported that vote rigging could not be ruled out, that when ‘Anonymous’ was polling 14,000 votes per hour. Ironically, those who were wrongly accusing Modi of rigging the vote had to resort to similar the very tactics to ‘defeat’ Modi. The Indian American Intellectuals Forum penned a petition along with 2 letters seeking the disqualification of ‘Anonymous’ and Erik Martin. Closer home, the author himself has been involved in a petition seeking to bring this matter to the attention of TIME’s eminent editorial panel.
In conclusion, I must state that Narendra Modi’s online popularity does not need any stamps from magazines like TIME. It would not be an exaggeration to rank him among the most popular and tech-savvy leaders on the Internet. One look at his Twitter page, official Facebook profile and his website will validate my point. To reduce his popularity of the web is nothing short of living in a fool’s paradise. It is equally true that Modi deserved to be on top of the list and now that the Editor from TIME has promised to look into the irregularities, one hopes remedial action is not far away.