Election Commission summoned social media companies to a meeting last week to discuss monitoring of content on these platforms to ensure that there is no breach of code of conduct by candidates and political parties in the upcoming elections, reports Times of India.
The reports states that the companies concerned declined to comment and referred to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) for an official response.
When contacted by Medianama, Subho Roy, President of IAMAI said that IAMAI will be releasing an official statement in response to the meeting with the Election Commission.Roy had told Times of India that it was a sensitising meeting on the model code of conduct, its importance during the last 48 hours of the election, pre-certified advertisements, its importance in accounting of candidates’ expenses, among others.
In October 2013, the Election Commission had issued an initial set of guidelines for the use of Social Media for election campaigning. Aspects of the campaign covered by the guidelines include candidate’s social media accounts, pre-certification of political advertisements, expenditure on online campaigns, application of model code of conduct online especially on social media, 48 hour deadline before the election date, among others.
Since online media is quite different from traditional media, it appears that several of these guidelines are not entirely executable. For instance, it is hard to account for the expenditure made by friends of political parties online. And hence at the time of release of the social media guidelines, the Election Commission was still in discussion with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology on practical ways to deal with the issue of outsiders being connected with political parties or their campaigns.
Similarly, the deadline on campaigning (48 hours before the election day) may be executable in case of traditional media, however Internet is more dynamic and companies may not be able to entirely control the content that is being circulated on the internet. Being the first election to include social media within the ambit of campaigning, the level of co-operation that the IAMAI extends to the Election Commission may determine the level of control that could be given to the government for similar matters, even in the future.