The Election Commission has called a meeting with the India heads of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Google, ShareChat and TikTok on Tuesday to discuss problems related to social media in the context of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The 2019 General Elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, with the results being declared on May 23.
The poll body will discuss unresolved questions about the deletion of social media content that violates the model code of conduct, The Indian Express reported. It will also discuss the pre-certification process for political advertisements and the time limit for social media firms to act on complaints.
The Election Commission had last week asked Facebook to take down two political posters with Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s photo, shared by Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Om Prakash Sharma. However, the social media firm asked the poll body to cite a specific legal provision which the posts violated. Sharma deleted the posts on his own.
The agenda note for Tuesday’s meeting, which The Indian Express has accessed, states: “Evolving a notification mechanism by the social media platforms so that ECI may notify the relevant platform of political violations of Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.”
“Removal of content is very, very sensitive for intermediaries, therefore we want a legal order that cites a legal provision,” Subho Ray, president of the Internet and Mobile Association of India, told the daily. The association is representing Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, ShareChat and Tiktok in coordinating with the poll body to establish a “code of ethics” for these platforms.
The poll body also wants the platforms to tell users about “unlawful conduct during the election and in particular during the prohibited period of 48 hours”, The New Indian Express reported. The Representation of the People Act prohibits political campaigning 48 hours before polling day, and an Election Commission notification prohibits publication of political advertisements during this period.