Election Commission to keep a close watch on social media campaigns

Social networking sites should take pre-certification from Media Certification and Monitoring Committees at district and State levels

April 06, 2023 10:16 pm | Updated 10:16 pm IST - Bengaluru

Chief Electoral Officer Manoj Kumar Meena speaking at a workshop for journalists in Bengaluru on Thursday.

Chief Electoral Officer Manoj Kumar Meena speaking at a workshop for journalists in Bengaluru on Thursday. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In the wake of the continuing trend of political parties, candidates, and their supporters using social media in a big way, the Election Commission (EC) is keeping a close watch on such campaigns. 

The EC has issued detailed guidelines for political advertisements on such platforms that include obtaining certification for contents before putting them in the public domain. It is mandatory for political parties and individual candidates to keep details of expenditure incurred on advertisements in social media and the expenses will be accounted for in the total election expenditure incurred by the candidates. Besides, all social networking sites have also been asked to maintain expenditure incurred by the political parties and individual candidates on social media advertisements, according to Suryasen A.V., Special Officer (Media, IT and SVEEP), in Karnataka.

Pre-certification

The EC directive will be applicable to a range of Internet-based social media which include Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. “The social networking sites should take pre-certification from Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMC) at the district and State levels. A special social media expert has been added in MCMC to monitor social media and report violations,” he said, while addressing a workshop on media’s role in the electoral process.

According to EC guidelines, candidates should furnish details of their social media accounts/handles at the time of filing nominations. “Any political content in the form of messages/comments/photos/videos posted/uploaded on the blogs/self accounts on websites/social media will not be treated as political advertisements and therefore would not require pre-certification. However, advertisements issued in e-paper shall invariably require pre-certification by the committee concerned. This is as part of the commission’s efforts to address the problem of paid news,” he said.

WhatsApp

Pointing out that there was no clarity on whether to consider WhatsApp under the social media category as it was an individual messaging mobile application, the official said the Supreme Court’s guidelines on the responsibilities of group admins will be followed. “Although it is difficult to monitor violations on WhatsApp, we are keeping an eye through shadow observers,” he added.

To ensure free, fair and ethical use of social media platforms and maintain the integrity of the electoral process, the Internet and Mobile Association of India in consultation with the EC had developed a set of ‘Voluntary Code of Ethics’ for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The EC has appealed to the association to follow the voluntary code of ethics.

Media’s role

Inaugurating the workshop, Chief Electoral Officer for Karnataka Manoj Kumar Meena said media played a vital role during elections and it was an essential part of the EC.

“Most of the time we get to know about violations of Model Code of Conduct happening at the grassroots level through the media based on which complaints are lodged. Media support is essential for the effective functioning of the Election Commission,” Mr. Meena added.

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