The Election Commission of India (EC) has asked to meet with Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, ShareChat and TikTok’s India heads to talk about taking down content which violates its guidelines during the upcoming elections, reports the Indian Express.

It is interesting that the EC has now included WhatsApp, TikTok and Sharechat in this meeting. These companies were missing from the EC’s announcement last week where it said that it was working with online platforms to regulate content, takedowns, ad verification and actions during the silence period. MediaNama had then pointed out that the EC should look at TikTok, which now has a large Indian audience, for social media profiles of candidates, political parties, and paid campaigns by supporters.

In the EC’s upcoming meeting with the platforms’ India heads, the EC will address: 

  • The pre-certification process for political ads and the time limit for companies to act on complaints
  • “Evolving a notification mechanism by the social media platforms so that ECI may notify the relevant platform of political violations of Section 126 of the RP Act, 1951.”
  • The platforms will also discuss if users who pay to boost and promote a post qualify as political advertisers
  • Grievance redressal channels
  • Abuse prevention mechanisms
  • Awareness programs during the silence period

IAMAI: Legal provision necessary for content take down

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) told the Indian Express that it needed a legal order ‘that cites a legal provision’ to take down content as it will help the org to establish the legality of the notice and in case the company challenges it, “we will have to explain to the court that this notice does not pass muster given the cited act or law.”

The IAMAI in consultation with the Election Commission of India, is formulating a set of code of ethics for intermediary online platforms, and represents Facebook, Twitter, Google, WhatsApp and ShareChat. Last week, the EC issued a notice to Facebook for violating the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). It asked the platform to remove two political posters from BJP leader and Delhi MLA Om Prakash Sharma. The EC issued a show cause notice to Sharma as well.

What platforms are doing for election integrity

Twitter

  • Late last month, Twitter said that it would hire a liaison officer with the ECI, have a process and mechanism to address (unspecified) issues during the elections, and hire a country head for India.
  • Twitter announced its political advertiser verification process and political ads library, following Facebook and Google’s.

Also read: Twitter India to meet the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT after bias accusations

Facebook

Also read: IT Parliamentary Committee calls on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram reps to meet

Google

  • In January, Google released a political advertising transparency report and a searchable political ads archive for India, for transparency in election ads
  • In February, Google News Initiative partnered with DataLeads and Internews to host a series of training sessions for Indian journalists to cover topics like ‘online verification and fact-checking, journalist digital safety and security, YouTube for elections coverage and data visualization for elections.’

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