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Elections 2014: Election Commission Changes Online Content Guidelines; Ad Rules Still Apply

The Election Commission appears to have changed its guidelines regarding “active monitoring” content. In a letter to the IAMAI published on the EC website (read), the commission has said that it would expect “unlawful” content to be taken down “at the earliest possible” whenever something comes to “your notice”. We assume the commission is referring to members of the IAMAI, content companies and social media platforms. This is a set of guidelines similar to the IT Rules, such that in case a complaint is raised about content under the IT Rules, it needs to be taken down within 36 hours. However, the IT Rules are broader and ever allow take-down of content that courts might consider lawful.

The Election Commission has been rather vague about what it wants, and we hope this ambiguity doesn’t mean that an Internet platform will get into trouble for not removing content quickly enough, especially since the EC hasn’t defined what it means by ‘the earliest possible.

The EC has asked the IAMAI to inform its members of this ruling, and asked for a list of its members. We hope that the Election Commission doesn’t believe that the IAMAI represents all Internet companies. It doesn’t. According to latest Annual Report on its website, as of 31st March 2013, it had only 125 members, with 23 members leaving the IAMAI, and 29 new members joining during the year.

Advertising Guidelines Still Remain

It has asked the IAMAI to inform its advertisers (they probably mean, IAMAI members who are also advertisers) to follow two previously released set of guidelines. The latest of these guidelines suggested that:

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“No political advertisement shall be accepted and displayed on Internet and Internet based media without pre-certification.”

We’d raised a few issues regarding this set of guidelines earlier. Read them here.

Relevant quotes from the letter:

The commission take note of points raised by you. However, the commission would expect any unlawful content whenever comes to your notice must be removed at the earliest possible. Further, you may ask your advertisers to comply with the Commission’s guidelines issued vide letter dated 25.10.2013 and 18.3.2014 on use of internet in election campaigning before they advertise any material / or place any content on various sites. You may also intimate all advertising any material / or place any content on various sites. You may also intimate all advertising political parties and candidates when they place any advertisement or content on the internet based sites that the same must comply with model code of conduct which is on the Commission’s website.

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