The Election Commission of India (EC) and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), representing six social media platforms, have enacted a “Voluntary Code of Ethics” for the Lok Sabha polls, as part of which the social media firms will act against paid advertisements that violate the poll panel’s norms.
Under the Code, the companies are committed to “acknowledge and/or process” within three hours all “valid legal orders” to take down content violating the election model code of conduct.
All other EC takedown notices will be “acted upon expeditiously,” the Code states.
The companies also committed to a mechanism in which advertisers can upload their certification from the EC’s Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC). Upon notification from the poll panel, the companies will “process/action” against paid political advertisements that are not certified, the Code states.
In a meeting on Wednesday, EC and IAMAI officials negotiated the language of a draft that was assembled by the companies. The EC had called upon the companies to create the draft after a meeting on Tuesday.
The Code does not include any commitment by the companies to pre-monitor content.
The Code’s purpose is “to identify measures that Participants can put in place to increase confidence in the electoral process.”
The notification system for Google is a Google webform; for Twitter, a legal submissions portal page; and for ShareChat and Facebook an email address. Company officials told The Indian Express that they have yet to train the EC on how to use their notification systems.
According to officials who attended the meeting, the EC wanted to say that the companies will “take action” within three hours on legal orders regarding Section 126 – or the “silence period” under the election code of conduct, violations. But the companies convinced the signatories of making the language “acknowledge” and “process.”
In a statement, the EC said that Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora appreciated the steps taken, and said that “formulation of the Code augurs a good beginning but is essentially a work in making”.
An IAMAI statement said, “Collectively, IAMAI and member participants of the Code of Ethics remain committed to ensuring free, fair, and ethical electoral process,”.