Lok Sabha Election 2019: EC guidelines to tackle misuse of social media is the first good step

The EC, at present, has taken some basic steps towards bringing in some accountability to the use of social media. Briefly, these are as follows:

Pre-certification: Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have agreed to run only pre-certified advertisements; Bulk SMS’s/voice messages on phone also require pre-certification.

Monitoring by Social Media companies: The social media companies to use technology to monitor events on election days.

Model Code of Conduct: Model Code of Conduct is to apply to social media campaigning as well.

Expenditure accounts: Political parties will share expenditure details for online campaigning with the EC, including payments made to internet companies and websites, campaign-related operational expenditure for making creative content, wages of persons employed, etc.

48-hour silence: Social media companies will also adhere to the 48 hour ‘silence period’ before an election.

MCMCs: District and state level Media Certification and Monitoring Committees will include one intermediary/social media expert.

Violation reporting: The C-Vigil app will allow citizens to confidentially report violations.

These steps help towards monitoring the official conduct of political parties and candidates, and fundamentally direct existing laws towards conduct on social media as well — for instance, the Model Code of Conduct. A repeated argument that was being made was to include social media in the purview of Section 126 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (the 48-hour ‘silence period’). The new rule effectively does this.

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