According to a “voluntary code of ethics for general elections 2019” agreed to between the EC on one hand and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and social media intermediaries including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat, Tiktok etc, on the other, the latter will have a notification mechanism by which the poll panel can notify the relevant platforms of potential violation of Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act and other applicable electoral laws in accordance with established legal procedures.
While content in violation of Section 126 of the RP Act will be acted upon in three hours, other posts will be dealt “expeditiously”, based upon the nature of violation.
TOI was the first to report on January 12, 2019, that EC proposed a 3-hour time-limit for social media to take down content in violation of the 48-hour pre-poll campaign ban. The three-hour limit was part of the recommendations made by an EC committee set up last year to review provisions of Section 126 of R P Act last year in the context of rise of electronic and social media.
The code agreed to on Wednesday — which as per the preamble will help participating social media firms improve integrity and transparency of the electoral process — has come into immediate effect and shall remain in force for duration of the general election.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said formulation of the code was a good beginning but essentially, a work in progress. He said social media participants need to follow the code in letter and spirit. The code states that social media platforms will endeavour to meet, in good faith and to the best of their ability, commitments, including creating a high-priority, dedicated reporting mechanism for the EC and appointing dedicated officers to interface with during the Lok Sabha polls and honour its lawful requests.
As per the code, social media participants will utilise their pre-existing labels and disclosure technology for paid political advertisements. They have also committed to providing a mechanism for submitting pre-certificates issued by the EC and/or media certification and monitoring committee, for election advertisements that feature names of political parties and candidates. Any advertisements posted without such certification and notified by the EC will be acted upon expeditiously.
Social media intermediaries, through IAMAI, will update the EC on steps taken to enforce the code and prevent abuse of their platforms. They will also voluntarily undertake campaigns to build awareness on electoral laws and other related instructions and train nodal officers at the EC on their products and services