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Facebook, Google, Twitter to assist ECI in keeping polls clean: report

Social media companies Google, Facebook and Twitter have assured the Election Commission that their platforms won’t be used for anything which affects polls during the campaign period, reports The Hindu. A committee under Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha contacted the regional heads of these companies seeking inputs on what these companies could do to
– avoid a negative impact of fake news and
– targeted communication during the 48-hour period before the poll closes.

The companies will also inform the EC about the expenditure on each political advertisement on their platforms according to Indian Express.

The committee under Sinha was set up to review the scope of Section 126 of Representation of the People Act, 1951, since new media platforms have come into existence and gained popularity. The section prohibits displaying election matter “by means, inter alia, of television or similar apparatus” during the 48-hour period preceding the closing of a poll — also called the ‘silence period’.

Rajasthan, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh will hold pilots for state assembly elections later this year, before the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

Use of governmental social media

Facebook was the EC’s social media partner for the Karnataka state assembly elections held earlier this year. The partnership was announced a week after it was reported that the Election Commission had taken a “grim view” of the Cambridge Analytica incident and the fact that Facebook was exploited to influence polls across the world. Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat had then indicated that the EC may review its association with the social media giant. It is unclear what the EC means by this.

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EC’s partnerships with Facebook

  • In June, Facebook offered to remove content flagged by the Election Commission during the silence period.
  • The EC has partnered with Facebook on three different occasions in 2017, to encourage Facebook users, specifically young people, to register themselves as voters.
    • In 2017, Facebook sent voter registration reminders in 13 Indian languages to all its users in the country for four days, from July 1 to 4.
    • In November 2017, all Facebook users who were going to turn 18, got a “birthday wish” on their birthday along with a reminder encouraging them to register with the EC to vote.

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