Tech in Elections 2019: Code Of Ethics For Social Media Comes Into Effect

The social media platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) submitted the “Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019” to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioners Ashok Lavasa and Sushil Chandra on Wednesday evening (March 20).

The companies have agreed to create a high priority dedicated reporting mechanism for the Election Commission of India and appoint dedicated teams during the period of General Elections for taking expeditious action on any reported violations.

They have also agreed to provide a mechanism for political advertisers to submit pre-certified advertisements issued by Media Certification and Monitoring Committee. The Code of Ethics also promises to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements.

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Here are some of the points highlighted in the code of ethics:

  • The code’s purpose is to identify the measures that social media and internet companies can put in place to increase confidence in the electoral process and help safeguard platforms against misuse.
  • The Code of Ethics will work to prevent inappropriate or objectionable political advertisements
  • Participants including BIGO, ByteDance, Facebook, Google, Sharechat and Twitter have also agreed to take action on content reported by the nodal officer, expeditiously, in accordance with the law
  • Social media companies will provide a mechanism for relevant political advertisers to submit pre-certificates issued by EC or its Media Certification & Monitoring Committee (MCMC) for election advertisements that feature names of political parties and candidates
  • Social media companies will also, via IAMAI, provide updates on measures taken by them to prevent abuse, should EC ask for such updates
  • They will train EC’s nodal officers on how their platforms work and on mechanisms for sending requests on dealing with ‘offensive’ material
  • The social media companies have developed a notification mechanism through which the poll watchdog can notify relevant platforms of potential violations of Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951

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. They have also committed to greater transparency in paid political advertisements.

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The rules come amid concerns of misuse of social media ahead of India’s Lok Sabha polls – the world’s biggest election in which around 90 crore people are eligible to vote. Misinformation, hate speech and divisive content have been flagged as major worries by experts ahead of the mammoth exercise.

Voting for the Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, with the results set be declared on May 23.


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