Representatives of social media platforms and the Internet and Mobile Association of India have agreed to devise a “Code of Ethics” for the industry by Wednesday evening to prevent the abuse of such platforms in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.
The Election Commission said it had met representatives of the Internet and Mobile Association of India and social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat, TikTok and BigoTV on Tuesday.
The meeting was convened to discuss matters such as pre-certification and transparency in expenditure of political advertisements, evolving a “notification mechanism” for social media platforms to act on violations of Section 126 of the Representation of People Act, 1951, and preventing the misuse of these platforms.
Section 126 of the Act prohibits advertising and campaigning on television and other electronic media during the silent period of 48 hours before polling ends.
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora urged social media platforms to come up with a code similar to the Model Code of Conduct for the upcoming election process and a “lasting document in the long run”.
Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa said managements should consider a clause on users voluntarily agreeing not to misuse social media platforms for election or political purposes. Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra said deterrents, like some punitive action, against users misusing the platform should be “considered proactively”.
Unidentified officials told PTI that the poll body insisted that social media intermediaries should not allow political advertisements without the approval of certification committees set up in districts. The commission was of the view that the Internet and Mobile Association of India should coordinate with intermediaries to monitor cases of violation.
Earlier this month, a parliamentary committee on Information Technology had directed Facebook, Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp to ensure the platforms are not misused during the elections. On February 25, the committee had directed Twitter to ensure that foreign players do not influence the elections.