Sunday, 12 February 2017

Election Commission’s Control of Social Media Usage by Political Parties: Satabish Ajjarapu

Satabish Ajjarapu
Student: LLM in Law & Development,
Azim Premji University,

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has realised the steep increase in the role of social media during elections hence it has anticipated certain forthcoming problems and had decided to control social media from its nascent stage itself and for the same the ECI had laid down rules and directions from time to time which the Political Parties and Political Contestants need to adhere with.
The ECI had first realised the potential of Social Media in the year 2013 and had laid down rules to prevent its misuse. According to the ECI the phrase Social Media includes the following:
      1)      collaborative projects (Ex: Wikipedia)
      2)      blogs and micro blogs (Ex: Twitter)
      3)      content communities (Ex: YouTube, Instagram)
      4)      social networking sites (Ex: Facebook, Orkut, Google+, Whatsapp)
      5)      virtual game-worlds (Ex: Apps)  
The ECI had begun the regulation of Social Media initially in the year 2013 by asking the nominating candidates to provide their e-mail ids and social media id’s like name of the Orkut, Facebook Accounts, Twitter Accounts. But these were applicable only to such candidates who were owning such ids and accounts.
The ECI vide notification No. 491/SM/2013/Communication dated 25th October, 2013 had laid down stringent guidelines by stating that all the rules and regulations which are applicable to other forms of political campaigning are equally applicable to the Social Media.
Pre-certification of Advertisements by the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee has been mandated for the content which the political parties or candidates want to post on Electronic Media which includes Social Media. Only after receiving clearance from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee such content can be posted online.
The political parties should also submit a statement of expenditure (on campaigning through internet including social media) of elections to the ECI and such statements are required to be submitted within 75 days of assembly elections and 90 days of Lok Sabha elections. The candidates and political parties are required to maintain an account of expenditure on advertisements and promotions through social media and the same needs to be submitted along with the statement of expenditure. This account shall also include payments made to internet companies and websites for carrying advertisements and also campaign related operational expenditure on making of creative development of content, operational expenditure on salaries and wages paid to the team of workers employed by such candidates and political parties to maintain their social media accounts.
The Election Commission has a model code of conduct in place during the elections in respect of political parties and candidates which remains in force from the date the elections are announced by the Commission till the completion of elections. The provisions of this model code of conduct and related instructions of the Commission issued from time to time shall also be applicable to the content being posted on the internet, including social media websites, by candidates and political parties.
Hence through the above guidelines the ECI is planning to control the usage of Social Media in Political Campaigning and simultaneously the ECI is working with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology on practical ways to deal with the issue of social media and its usage in the election campaigning of political parties and candidates. 

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