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.
IAMAI has agreed to coordinate with participants various steps mentioned in this code. Participants have also committed to voluntarily undertake voter awareness campaigns.
In order to curb the misuse of social media during the upcoming the upcoming General Elections in the country, earlier this week, the Election Commission of India had summoned the country heads of social media companies including — Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Google, Helo, TikTok and ShareChat to discuss regarding introduction of a voluntary “code of ethics”, along the lines of Model Code of Conduct during elections by March 20.
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
Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora said that it is a good start but it would need more work. The ‘voluntary code’ focuses on taking down ‘problematic content’ and bringing ‘transparency in political advertising’.
Also, the code noted that in case of any conflict between the voluntary framework and existing legal framework, the legal framework will prevail.
The inclusion of social media in the election management comes as a good move to curb misuse, as in the past few years, social media has shown its important role in influencing people’s decision. These platforms influence content we consume and its effects the user’s decision making, which makes it important to curb fake news and social media abuse. Thus let’s see how fruitful the move be.