The Election Commission of India has asked social media companies including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat and ByteDance to follow the voluntary code of ethics they adopted during the Lok Sabha elections for all upcoming state polls.
The EC sent a letter through the Internet and Mobile Association of India, which acts as a go-between for the Election Commission and social media and internet companies.
“It is desirable that all social media intermediaries under the umbrella of IAMAI agree to the voluntary code of ethics in all future elections. In this regard, you are requested to send your concurrence for the code of ethics to be observed during all elections,” Standhope Yuhlung, principal secretary of the EC, said in the letter, which ET has reviewed. The terms of the assemblies in Haryana and Maharashtra end in November. In Jharkhand, it ends in January while in Delhi, it is in February.
Emails sent to the EC, Facebook, Google and ByteDance did not elicit a response. Twitter, WhatsApp and ShareChat declined to comment.
Chitrita Chatterjee, associate vice president at IAMAI, confirmed receipt of the letter on Monday and said the industry association is waiting to hear the views of the social media companies.
In March, the EC prepared a code of conduct with India’s top social media companies to identify measures to increase confidence in the electoral process and help safeguard platforms against misuse. The code promises social media companies will commit to facilitating transparency in paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/disclosure technology for such promotions.
According to the code, companies will have three hours to take down objectionable content in the 48-hour silent period before polling. Social media companies developed a notification mechanism through which the EC can inform them of potential violations related to the bar on advertising, broadcasting speeches or rallies by political parties in the silent period.
Reported in April that Facebook removed 574 posts and Twitter disabled or deleted 49 accounts or tweets during the first three phases of the Lok Sabha elections following requests from the ECI.