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HindustanTimes Sun,24 Aug 2014

Software to crack the whip, detect paid news

Rahul Noronha, Hindustan Times  Bhopal, August 05, 2013
First Published: 12:05 IST(5/8/2013) | Last Updated: 12:08 IST(5/8/2013)

With the intention of cracking the whip on newspapers and candidates getting paid news items published, as also candidates indulging in violation of model code of conduct in the run up to the assembly election, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is all set to introduce software for detecting cases of paid news in the print media.

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The software, designed and sourced from the Pune-based Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), would contain keywords that would enable detection of paid news and cases of violation of model code of conduct.

This would be the first time the software would be used in elections in MP.

Previously, the software has been used in Gujarat in the assembly elections.

This is how the software works: the software has certain keywords fed into it in languages the user desires.

On the basis of keywords, the software would identify news items appearing in online editions of newspapers and shortlist them.

The news items would then be looked into by a committee of experts to verify whether they come under the definition of paid news.

The software would enable wider monitoring with lesser manpower and make the job of the committee that is to look into paid news much easier as the committee would not have to go through each and every news item in each and every newspaper.

The software would also help in detection of cases of violation of model code of conduct. The monitoring would be carried out at the state capital and at the district level.

“The chief electoral officer’s office is in advanced stages of discussions with CDAC for obtaining the software. The CEO’s office with the intention of customising the software for Madhya Pradesh has in fact asked the CDAC to add more keywords,” said assistant chief electoral officer, Roohi Khan. In MP, the software would work in Hindi and English, the two main languages in which newspapers are published and campaigns are carried out.

Under present norms, journalistic malpractices in form of paid news would be referred to the Press Council of India. Malpractices by candidates would be tried in court as electoral malpractices.

In UP, an MLA lost her membership as the high court ruled she had indulged in getting paid news published.

Former chief election commissioner SY Qureshi has advocated a two-year jail term for publishers, editors, writers and candidates who get paid news published. The election commission has maintained that paid news amounts to misleading of voters and is a major electoral malpractice.


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