During Lok Sabha elections this year, social media platforms took action against 909 “violative cases” reported by the ECI.
New Delhi: Social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, Shar-echat, TikTok and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) have assured the Election Commission of India (ECI) that they will follow the “Voluntary Code of Ethics” during the upcoming elections in Haryana and Maharashtra legislative Assemblies and the various byelections that are to be held simultaneously.
Since social media platforms are the biggest source of fake news and misinformation, particularly during the time of elections, the ECI had vigorously pursued that they take responsibility for content being circulated on their platforms. Following this they joined hands with IAMAI to develop a “Voluntary Code of Ethics” which it came into effect from the day it was presented to the ECI, on March 20 this year, for general elections in May.
According to the “Code of Ethics”, social media platforms and IAMAI will take down anything that is flagged by the ECI as inappropriate and something that can influence voters apart from spreading misinformation and fake news. For this a nodal officer in ECI has been appointed who coordinates with them.
During Lok Sabha elections this year, social me-dia platforms took action against 909 “violative ca-ses” reported by the ECI.
Usually social media platforms cite their privacy laws while turning down requests from governments to take down content flagged by them. Between July and December 2018, Twitter took down only 2 per cent of the total content deemed as objectionable by the Indian authorities.
“However, during the elections, they have agreed to take down content once ECI specifies what is objectionable and why should it be taken down,” said an official.
Social media platforms have developed a mechanism by which ECI can notify them of potential violations of Section 126 of the R.P. Act, 1951, and other electoral laws, ECI said. “During a meeting with the ECI last week, the IAMAI and social media platforms assured the Commission that they will continue to cooperate in ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections,” ECI official said.
In their declaration, the social media groups also assured ECI that they will ensure all political advertisements on their platforms are pre-certified from the media certifi-cation and monitoring committees as per the directions of the Supreme Court and will voluntarily undertake information, education and communication campaigns to build awareness about electoral laws and other related issues.
“Participating platforms are committed to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/disclosure technology for such advertisements,” the Code of Ethics says.
Meanwhile, the ECI through a press note issued on Thursday said TV/Radio channels and cable networks/internet website/social media platforms must ensure the contents of the programmes telecast/broadcast/ displayed by them during the period of 48 hours before the time fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency do not contain any material, including views and appeals by panelists and participants that may be construed as promoting or prejudicing the prospect of any particular party or candidate or influencing/ affecting the result of the election.
This shall, among other things include display of any opinion poll and of standard debates, analysis, visuals and sound-bytes, the ECI said. The ECI also banned Exit poll and dissemination of its results before voting ends.
“All Internet websites and Social Media platforms must also comply with the provisions of The Information Technology Act, 2000 and ECI guidelines for all political content on their platform,” the ECI said.