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EC wants social media policy to check code of conduct violations

The Election Commission is drafting a social media policy that will allow it to monitor content that transgresses the code of conduct and also checks the misuse of the medium for surrogate publicity. 

india Updated: Aug 19, 2017 13:54 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Election Commission,Social Media,Social Media policy
EC has also proposed an amendment to the laws to allow election petition to be filed against all candidates who contested in case of malpractices being reported.(File Photo/LiveMint)

The Election Commission is drafting a social media policy that will allow it to monitor content that transgresses the code of conduct and also checks the misuse of the medium for surrogate publicity.

As of now the poll panel’s monitoring mechanism is based mostly on complaints, even though its media certification and monitoring committee, which keeps tabs on print and electronic media for advertisements of political nature, also looks out for lapses.

“It has come to the EC’s notice that some public relations firms are actively being deployed to shape public opinion online. With increasing use of mobile-internet technology, the influence of social media has also risen and it is high time that social media’s content is monitored,” election commissioner OP Rawat said on Thursday.

The commissioner said the poll panel is formulating a social media policy and is “hopeful that is likely to address such issues.”

Officials at the poll panel said it was too early to give out details of what the policy will encompass. For instance, there was no clarity on how the poll panel will take action against candidates if they violate the model code of conduct by issuing an appeal for votes in the 48 hours leading to polling.

Candidates for all assembly and general elections are required to submit details of their social media pages in their affidavits, but monitoring content on the social media has proved to be a challenge for the commission.

All political advertisements on websites or social media sites are also required to secure a pre-certification from the commission. They also have to submit expenditure incurred on online campaigning, including payments made to websites for carrying advertisements and campaign related material.

Sources in EC said over the years efforts have been made to shape a policy that can keep tabs on the social media accounts of candidates to check for violations such as using money or muscle to swing votes or using fake news to sway outcomes. “Another problem was that servers of most sites are located abroad and taking action is a long-drawn process,” a source said.

The commission has also proposed an amendment to the laws to allow election petition to be filed against all candidates who contested in case of malpractices being reported.

“ Election petitions can only be filed against winning candidate…if a defeated candidate has indulged in malpractices there is no way he can be questioned or it be established,” Rawat said.

He said the consequence of petitions filed even against defeated candidates is that anyone found guilty of corrupt practice, there could be further disqualification for six years.

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 23:25 IST