No political campaign to run on social media 48 hours before polling

Political parties have spent more than ₹53 crore on digital platforms like Google and Facebook between February and May

No political campaign will be allowed to run on major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, in the last 48 hours before polling ends, according to a voluntary code of ethics prepared by these platforms. These platforms submitted the code to the Election Commission (EC) on March 20.

“The code of ethics has been developed as a follow up to yesterday’s meeting with the IAMAI and representatives of social media platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat and TikTok etc… The platforms have committed to process any violations reported under Section 126 of the RP (Representation of the People) Act, 1951, within three hours as per the Sinha Committee’s recommendations,” EC said in a statement. Social media firms such as BIGO and ByteDance have also signed the code of ethics.

Section 126 of the act embodies “election silence”, which prohibits any form of campaigning in the last 48 hours leading up to end of voting. This is the first time internet-based firms have voluntarily adopted the norms for online campaign.

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Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said the formulation of the code augurs a good beginning but is essentially, a work in making. The participants need to follow in letter and spirit the commitments made in the code of ethics, he said.

Industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) will act as the liaison between the social media firms and the commission. Under the voluntary code of ethics, social media companies will take action on content reported by the nodal officer, expeditiously, in accordance with the law. Social media firms, who signed the code, have the technology to upload certification from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee, according to the code.

They are also committed to taking action on paid advertisements and those violating the requirements of the MCMC’s certification under the notification by the EC, it said.

Under the code, social media firms have also committed to facilitating transparency in paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels or disclosure technology for such advertisements.

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