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Social Media Firms Agree on ‘Code of Ethics’ Before 2019 Polls in Meeting With EC

File photo of CEC Sunil Arora.

File photo of CEC Sunil Arora.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora stressed on how even social media companies need to adhere to a model code of conduct as followed by political parties.

New Delhi: With the focus now on political advertisements over social media and how to enforce the two-day silence period on these platforms ahead of voting, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and representatives of social media firms have agreed to come up with a “Code of Ethics” for the industry.

This was decided at a meeting called by the Election Commission of India in New Delhi on Tuesday.

According to sources, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora stressed on how even social media companies need to adhere to a model code of conduct as followed by political parties. The CEC said a model code of conduct framework will help in avoiding violation of law.

The IAMAI and other social media intermediaries will be again meeting on March 20 to finalise the code of ethics and draw up a final plan.

According to sources, the commission is also planning to introduce a clause for users who would furnish a voluntary agreement stating that they would not misuse social media for election or political purposes.

Issues such as how social media will play a role in curbing fake news and also if there can be a possible penalty for social media misuse for election or political purposes were also considered.

The meeting also focused on the platforms evolving a notification mechanism for acting on violation of Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951 and preventing misuse of the platforms.

It was on Tuesday that Election Commission had informed Bombay High Court that it will issue directions prohibiting all social media platforms from displaying political advertisements not pre-verified by it.

The commission said it is trying to evolve a notification mechanism for identifying and flagging political ads that have not been pre-verified but have still managed to appear on social media platforms.

Two weeks ago, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) — which is representing Facebook, Twitter, Google, WhatsApp and ShareChat in working with the poll panel to draw up a ‘Code of Ethics’ — agreed to “priority channels for the ECI within their grievance redressal mechanisms” and other election-related educational programs on these platforms.

On Friday, the EC wrote to Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat, and TikTok calling them for a meeting on Tuesday to discuss channels of grievance redressal, evolve a mechanism to prevent abuse on social media and a “notification mechanism” for the EC to flag violations, and work out awareness programs particularly during the silence period and a “general Code of Ethics by Social Media intermediaries”.