With the announcement of the dates for the Lok Sabha elections of 2019 and Narendra Modi’s envisioning of a digital media ushering in newer reaches through diverse modes of communication, the upcoming general elections in the country might as well be one governed by dynamic changes and stringent guidelines.
As social media emerges as one of the strongest platforms to promote pre election propaganda and mobilise objectives and opinions, the Election Commission of India has also issued a list of guidelines aimed at regulating the social media campaigning by the political parties.
The Election Commission has presented a model code of conduct and its pre-certified political advertisement rules, which will be applicable also to social media promotions.
As per the instructions, as part of their affidavit, the candidates are to furnish details of their social media accounts through which campaigning will be done at the time of filing nominations.
This, in addition to all social media ads from political parties having to be compulsorily pre certified. All the major social media platforms that include Facebook, Twitter, Google, WhatsApp and Share Chat are also to make public the expenditure catering to such political promotions on their website. Such expenditure will have to be shared with the Commission as part of the poll expenses of the party concerned.
While internet giants Facebook and Google have also deputed a dedicated grievance officer to receive complaints of any violation of EC guidelines, the Commission has made further provisions to regulate violation of laws. A social media expert will now be part of media certification and monitoring committees at district and state level. Accordingly, the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee will also include a social media expert to look into grievances.
Bulk SMSes/Voice messages on phone promoting election propaganda will also require precertification, as also electronic and radio advertisements. All digital media would also have to adhere to the 48 hours silence period prior to the elections taking place.
The guidelines by the Election Commission laying down social media norms for ensuring free and fair elections comes in the backdrop of wide circulation of a picture of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman along with some members of BJP on social media as an allegedly political tactic.