Poll panel meets representatives of Internet firms

New Delhi: Representatives of Internet companies, including social media platforms, on Tuesday had an inconclusive meeting with Election Commission officils on the use of social media for campaigning in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls while the Model Code of Conduct is in force.

Sources said the poll panel has called another meeting on Wednesday.

The two sides took up the misuse of social media during elections and pre-certification of political advertisements. They also discussed fake news and expenditure by political parties on online advertisements.

The Election Commission asked the tech companies to come up with mechanisms on their platforms for flagging model code violations and taking action within the given time-frame.

Sources said representatives from
Google told the poll panel that it can set up the system to check fake news within 24 hours.

The meeting was attended by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora, along with Election Commissioners Sushil Chandra and Ashok Lavasa. Among the tech companies, representatives of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, Sharechat and Tiktok were present.

After the meeting, Berges Y. Malu, Policy Head of ShareChat, said the company reaffirmed its commitment with the CEC. “We look forward to working with the Election Commission of India to uphold the integrity and legality of social media campaigns by political parties on our platform,” he said.

The meeting comes after the Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) sent a notice to the poll panel, urging it to act against the misuse of social media to influence voters.

With the Election Commission on March 9 outlining stringent guidelines for social media usage during elections, political parties and candidates won’t be able to post unverified advertisements, photographs of defence personnel, hate speeches and fake news on their accounts.

According to new guidelines, candidates are required to furnish details of their social media accounts at the time of filing nominations. Their activities on Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google would be under the Election Commission’s close scrutiny.

Provisions of the model code of conduct will also apply to the content being posted on social media by candidates and political parties. Any violation may lead to action by the Election Commission.

The poll panel also asked Facebook to remove political posters shared by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders referring to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and his pictures. (IANS)

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