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Internet Giants Like Google Take On New Roles In Indian Elections

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, December 2 2013

Last week Google India launched an online portal for all things election-related. The portal is meant to educate voters about the electoral process and provide information about political parties and candidates. A press release describes it as a “one stop destination” to help voters make an informed decision.

The portal home page aggregates election-related news, and potential voters can refine their search by different parties and/or states. There are additional pages for 'Videos,' a collection of Google hangouts and YouTube videos, and for information on 'How to register,' which helpfully addresses frequently searched-for questions and links people to online registration forms.

The site informs visitors that it is too late for voters to register for the Assembly elections, which are ongoing, but that they should start on the registration process for the 2014 general election as soon as possible.

Chetan Krishnaswamy, Google India's Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, writes:

Our intent is to empower voters with all the information they need at a single destination for upcoming general elections. Over time we will add more functionality to enable users to interact and engage with the candidates, so that they are not simply watching from afar, but participating in, engaging with and shaping the political process in a democratic way.

Krishnaswamy adds that Google has been fielding an increasing number of election-related searches recently.

Google is not the first corporation to take an active interest in the success of Indian elections. Earlier this fall the Times of India announced a collaboration with Facebook to encourage more citizens, especially younger citizens, to register to vote.

With hardly more than a month to spare before Assembly elections were scheduled to begin, India's Election Commission published controversial guidelines for the use of social media in political campaigns.

They also convened a meeting last week with five Internet giants—Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Ebay and Rediff.com—and asked for the companies' cooperation and assistance monitoring election-related content to ensure that political parties follow the model code of conduct.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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