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Ahead of election, EC calls for social media firms’ India heads meeting


As the general elections dates are drawing closer, the Election Commission (EC) of India is increasingly keeping a watch on the social media platforms and their content to ensure fair conduct of the poll.

After last week takedown notification to Facebook, the EC has called all social media platforms including Google, Twitter, Whatsapp, ShareChat and Tiktok for a meet to discuss over their violative social media content, ad policy and response time over complaints on Tuesday.

As per the agenda note, it will, among many things, talk about creating a notification mechanism by the social media platforms. The mechanism will help the ECI notify the relevant platform of political violations of Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951.

Besides, it will also discuss action initiatives to prevent abuse and promote awareness programmes by these platforms. In the meet, the matter over, whether those who pay platforms to promote a post would also qualify as political advertisers, will also be decided.

The meet is coming after confusion over EC’s first takedown notice to Facebook regarding a Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violation on March 13.

EC asked Facebook to remove two political posters with Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s photograph, shared by BJP leader and Delhi MLA Om Prakash Sharma.

In response, Facebook demanded a specific legal provision to remove the posters, which has led to confusion over EC’s notifications.

Removal of content is very, very sensitive for intermediaries, therefore we want a legal order that cites a legal provision. That will help us do two things, Subho Ray, President of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), told The Indian Express.

The IAMAI is representing Facebook, Twitter, Google, WhatsApp and ShareChat in coordinating with the EC for evolving a ‘Code of Ethics’ for their platforms.

Two months ago, studying the impact of social media influence during the silence period, an EC committee chaired by Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha recommended that no intermediary shall host any political advertisements without the prior approval of MCMC Committee.

IAMAI opposing the suggestion said, the onus of pre-certification is on advertisers and not on intermediaries.

In wake of Lok Sabha election in India, the social media platforms have appointed dedicated officers to take necessary and prompt action against malicious content published on their platforms.

These firms have also committed to taking action on any complaint reported by the designated officers of the ECI.

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