To prevent negative and bias media influence in the conduct of next free and fair election, the Election Commission has sought to ban political advertisements on all media in the final 48 hours before the election.
In a letter written to the Law Ministry, the EC suggested to extend the provisions under Section 126 of the Representation of People Act, which currently prevents electronic media from airing political advertisements in the silent period (2 days before), to print and digital media looking at the growing impact of social media on elections.
Anomalous situation exists in Section 126 of having differential treatment to print media as compared to other media platforms, a committee appointed by the EC quoted as saying by ET report.
It is important that voters are not unduly influenced and given a period of reflection to examine their political choices before they vote, it added.
Social media platforms have been out of the purview of the pre-screening and prohibition rules. The EC, through the amendment, aims to keep in check the negative influence on social media ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
In 2015, the EC had made pre-certification compulsory for campaign material or political ads to be published in newspapers during the 48 hours.
In the last three-four years, the social networking sites, as well as many similar platforms, have emerged as a medium for political parties to run their views and propaganda to manipulate voter base present there.
In early 2018, Facebook faced heavy scrutiny following the Cambridge Analytics (CA) scandal. It was alleged to have collected over 87 million users worldwide at the behest of Facebook and has been accused in cases of influencing elections in other countries as well.
Following the episode, Founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg in a blog post reaffirmed that he will take a step to curb the practice.
In order to bring more transparency in political ads, Facebook and Google have both now come up with a searchable Political Ads Library in India.
Last year, the ECI had roped in Google to track online advertising done by political parties.
The search engine will develop a mechanism that will enable it to share with the authority, details about the expenditure incurred on its platforms. Besides, it will only allow the advertisements that are pre-certified by the EC’s Media Certification and Monitoring Committees.
The EC also asked Facebook to consider blocking of political advertisement during the last 48 hours before elections in the country.
India has its Lok Sabha election due in April and May this year.