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How Facebook lobbied the Election Commission ahead of the 2019 elections in India

The social media company’s web of influence changed regulatory winds prior to Election Day, leaked internal files reveal.

"Working closely with both Indian, foreign social media companies and a prominent trade body IAMAI, we drove consensus to adopt a self regulatory code... Avoiding fresh legal obligation was our priority and we achieved it with minimal process changes at our end." — Facebook Internal Documents Facebook successfully lobbied against regulation from the Election Commission of India (ECI) ahead of the 2019 general elections to adopt a voluntary code instead, internal documents from Facebook and the ECI (seen by MediaNama) reveal. The ECI was initially keen on introducing a new regulatory framework for platforms, which would involve proactive removal of content and disabling political ads during the silence period, the documents revealed. Facebook's efforts to influence the ECI were first reported by The Intersection and the Hindustan Times on November 22. Internal documents from Facebook leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen, alongside a report from the Sinha committee formed by the Election Commission, shed light on Facebook's efforts to resist further legal obligations in India, as well as the process behind the 'voluntary code of ethics' that was later adopted by social media platforms in India. Part 1: The Sinha Committee is formed We were invited to attend the public hearing of the Sinha Committee... We attended all the sessions (other US tech companies skipped) and maintained our stand on being intermediaries governed by the IT Act 2000. — Facebook Internal Documents In January 2018, the ECI appointed a committee led by Umesh Sinha to look into enforcing the 48-hour silence period…

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