EC to monitor social media; political ads to be pre-certified

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Election Commission will "closely monitor" social media platforms for any objectionable content and advertisements, which will have to be pre-certified by the poll panel, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora said, here on Sunday.

Political advertisements posted on the social media by candidates or parties would be included in the election expenditure, he said.

"Media certification and monitoring committees (MCMCs) are in place at the district and state levels. One social media expert will also be part of this committee at each level now. All political advertisements, proposed to be issued on the social media, shall require pre-certification from the MCMC concerned," Arora said.

The candidates are required to furnish details of their social media accounts at the time of filing nominations.

All provisions of the model code of conduct will also apply to the content being posted on social media by candidates and political parties, the CEC said.

"Various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, WhatsApp and Share Chat, will remain under the close and stringent vigil of the Commission for any content aimed at vitiating the electoral process or designed to disturb peace, tranquillity, social harmony and public order," he said.

"Social media platforms have created a mechanism to accept only pre-certified political advertisements during the elections and will share the expenditure incurred on this with the elections authorities for the purposes of accounting," the CEC added.

Asked how the poll panel planned to stop posting of election-related material on social media during the prohibited period (48 hours before the polling starts), Arora said the Commission will monitor the platforms and take action if a violation comes to its notice.

"They (social media platforms) have started awareness campaigns for their users regarding unlawful conduct during the election particularly, the prohibited period of 48 hours, under Section 126," he said.

He said the platforms will deploy appropriate fact checkers, which will scan fake news, abuse etc, and added the platforms were taking actions against fake accounts, spam, etc.

All the platforms have agreed to establish priority channels for the EC for quick response, he added.

Arora said the Commission has decided that the bulk text or voice messages on phone and in election campaigning shall also be in the purview of pre-certification of election advertisements as in case of all electronic media, TV channels, cable network, radio including private FM channels, cinema halls, audio-visual displays in public places and political advertisement on social media.

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