Social Media Current Affairs - 2020

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Social Media Platforms Present Voluntary Code of Ethics

Social media platforms and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) presented a ‘Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019 to the Election Commission of India.

Voluntary Code of Ethics

  • The code aims to identify measures that the platforms can take to increase confidence in the electoral process to safeguard against misuse that vitiates the free and fair character.
  • The platforms will deploy appropriate policies and processes to facilitate access to information on electoral matters where appropriate and keeping in mind the principle of freedom of expression.
  • The platforms have voluntarily undertaken to establish a high-priority communication channel with the nodal officers designated by the ECI.
  • The Election commission together with platforms has developed a notification mechanism by which the electoral body can notify them of potential violations under Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act and on other matters.
  • As per the code, the platforms will acknowledge these notifications within three hours of receipt and will act upon expeditiously based on the nature of the reported violation.
  • The platforms will deploy a high-priority dedicated reporting mechanism for the EC and appoint dedicated persons for the purpose.
  • Platforms will ensure that political advertisements by parties or their candidates are pre-certified.

Participants including BIGO, ByteDance, Facebook, Google, Sharechat and Twitter have agreed to take action on the content reported by the nodal officer, expeditiously, in accordance with the law.

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Amendments to Representation of People’s Act 1951

The Election Commission of India has sought an amendment to the Representation of People Act 1951 to prevent print media, social media and other digital platforms from carrying political advertisements in the last 48 hours before the polling begins.

Why the amendment is necessary?

Section 126 of the Representation of People Act 1951 prevents electronic media from airing any political advertisements in the silent period (48 hours before polling begins),

The Election Commission has also made it mandatory to seek pre-certification of the campaign material to be published in newspapers during the 48 hours.

But the Social media platforms which are have gained huge prominence for their ability to influence election outcomes, are completely out of the purview of the pre-screening and prohibition rules.

The committee headed Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha had noted that an anomalous situation exists in Section 126 of having differential treatment to print media as compared to other media platforms.

The committee noted that while Section 126 explicitly bans television channels from broadcasting political matter during the silent period, lack of backing by law has led to Print media carrying political advertisements during the silent period despite the curbs imposed by the EC

What are the amendments sought?

The Election Commission of India has written to the Union Ministry of Law suggesting to extend the provisions under Section 126 to digital and print media as well. The Commission has sought inclusion of ‘print media’ and ‘other entities’ within the ambit of Section 126 (1) (b). The other entities would refer to all social media formats.

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