The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday asked video streaming platform Eros Now to take down a 5-part web series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi “until further orders”, the Economic Times reported. However, as of 2pm on April 22, ‘Modi: The Journey of a Common Man’ was still available on Eros Now’s website, along with a couple of trailers. In its letter to Eros Now the ECI cited its April 10 order imposing a similar ban on a biopic on Modi, and asked the company to send it a compliance letter “immediately”.

ECI officials watch Modi biopic, submit response to SC

Two days after the ECI stayed its release, the makers of the biopic ‘PM Narendra Modi’ had challenged the stay in the Supreme Court, saying the commission had acted without first watching the movie, per Business Standard. The court asked ECI officials to watch the movie and submit their view. Seven officials watched the movie last Wednesday, and earlier today submitted their response to the court, which posted the matter for hearing on Friday, the report said. The movie was originally scheduled for release on April 11, the first day of polling in India’s seven-phase general elections.

NaMo TV can air PM’s live speeches during ‘silence period’

Last Thursday the ECI said that BJP-sponsored NaMo TV could air live speeches of the PM during the “election silence period” as long as there is no reference to the candidate or constituency going to poll in that particular phase, The Wire reported. The previous week the ECI declined to ban NaMo TV after a complaint by the Congress but said that all its programmes should be pre-certified by its media certification and monitoring committee in Delhi, and all content being displayed without pre-certification should be removed immediately.

Twitter deletes Adityanath tweets after ECI complaint

Last week Twitter deleted two communal tweets by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath after the ECI lodged a complaint. Posted on April 5, the tweets referred to the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) as ‘the green virus’. The IUML had approached the ECI against the tweet and urged it to block Adityanath’s account. On April 11 the ECI said that 468 Facebook posts that violated the code of conduct or spread misinformation were reported and removed from the platform.

Social media’s code of ethics for elections

In March, social media platforms Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, ShareChat, TikTok and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) agreed to a voluntary code of ethics for Lok Sabha Elections 2019. Here’s a summary:

  • Notification mechanism for ECI to report violations to platforms: Platforms have developed a notification mechanism for the ECI to legally notify them of potential violations of Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and other electoral laws. The notification system for Google is a Google webform; a legal submissions portal page for Twitter; an email address for ShareChat and Facebook, per the Indian Express. Company officials said that they are yet to train the ECI on how to use their notification systems.
  • Action within 3 hours for violations of 48-hour silent period: For reported violations of Section 126 of the RP Act – which prohibits political parties and candidates from campaigning in the two days before voting – platforms will acknowledge and/ or process these legal orders within 3 hours (as per the Sinha Committee recommendations). For other legal requests, platforms will act upon them “expeditiously” based on the nature of reported violation.
    Platforms committed to “creating/opening a high priority dedicated reporting mechanism” for the ECI and “appoint dedicated person(s) / teams” during elections to contact and exchange feedback for acting upon legal requests from the ECI.
  • Pre-certification for political advertisers: The code requires platforms to provide a method for political advertisers to submit pre-certificates issued by ECI or its Media Certification & Monitoring Committee (MCMC) for running election-related ads. It requires that platforms “expeditiously” act on paid political ads which do not have a certification, as the ECI notifies. “Platforms will commit to facilitating transparency in paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/disclosure technology for such advertisements,” states the code.
  • Communication between the ECI, IAMAI, and platforms: Platforms will update the ECI (via the IAMAI) on measures they have taken to prevent abuse of their platforms, pursuant to legal requests by the ECI. IAMAI will coordinate with platforms on the steps carried out under this Code, the industry body and the platforms will be in “constant communication” with the ECI during the election period. “Participants will deploy appropriate policies and processes to facilitate access to information regarding electoral matters on their products and/or services…” reads the code.
  • Awareness and education campaigns: The members will carry out information, education and communication campaigns to build awareness including electoral laws and other related instructions.
  • Training nodal officers: Platforms will train their nodal officers to the ECI on their products, and on the mechanism for sending requests to the platforms as per procedure established by law.