22March2019

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Social Media Platforms Present "Voluntary Code of Ethics for the 2019 General Election"

Port Blair, March 22: The Social Media Platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), today presented a "Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019" to Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Sunil Arora and Election Commissioners, Shri Ashok Lavasa and Shri Sushil Chandra. The Code of Ethics has been developed as a follow up to the yesterday's meeting with IAMAI and representatives of Social Media Platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat and TikTok etc.

Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Sunil Arora while appreciating the steps taken, said that formulation of the Code augurs a good beginning but is essentially, a work in making. He said the Participants need to follow in letter and spirit the commitments made in the Code of Ethics. The Platforms have committed to process any violations reported under Section 126 of RP Act, 1951 within three hours as per Sinha Committee recommendations.

The Platforms have also agreed to create a high priority dedicated reporting mechanism for the ECI and appoint dedicated teams during the period of General Elections for taking expeditious action on any reported violations. Participants have also agreed to provide a mechanism for political advertisers to submit pre-certified advertisements issued by Media Certification and Monitoring Committee. The Code of Ethics also promises to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements. IAMAI has agreed to coordinate with participants various steps mentioned in this code. Participants have also committed to voluntarily undertake voter awareness campaigns.

The 'Code of Ethics" has been developed to ensure free, fair & ethical usage of Social Media Platforms to maintain the integrity of the electoral process for the General Elections 2019. The Code voluntarily agreed upon by the Participants comes into operation with immediate effect.

The text of the Code is linked below.

Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Elections 2019

Preamble

The Internet has created opportunities for all to access reliable information, seek out credible sources, and obtain relevant facts. The web's openness has made these benefits available to all no matter who they are and where they are located.

This equally applies to elections, which are key to nurturing and strengthening a democratic culture. A free and fair election is the foundation of democracy. Access to reliable information and communication platforms via the Internet enables people to make informed choices in exercising their franchise during elections.

Keeping this context in mind and as per recommendations of the Sinha Committee Report, Participants recognise that while their products/services allow users to post content, the Participants are neither the authors) nor the publisher(s) of such content. However, the Participants have together developed this 'Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Elections 2019' (Code) and are committed to helping support such democratic processes by improving the integrity and transparency of the electoral process.

The Participants recognize that their group companies provide and administer different products and services, each operating under different business models and technologies while having varying audiences. Therefore, the Participants will endeavour to ensure that such products/ services meet the spirit of the Code while accounting for the diverse nature of the products/ services, which are governed by their respective product policies.

The Code shall apply within the existing legal framework in India. In case of any conflict between the voluntary framework and the existing legal framework, the legal framework will prevail.

Purpose of the Code

The purpose of this voluntary Code is to identify the measures that Participants can put in place to increase confidence in the electoral process. This is to help safeguard the products and/ or services of the Participants against misuse to vitiate the free and fair character of the 2019 General Elections in India.

Commitments

The Participants will endeavour to meet, in good faith and to the best of their ability, the following commitments during the 2019 Lok Sabha General Elections in India:

1.  Participants will endeavour to, where appropriate and keeping in mind the principle of freedom of expression, deploy appropriate policies and processes to facilitate access to information regarding electoral matters on their products and/ or services.

2.   Participants will endeavour to voluntarily undertake information, education and communication campaigns to build awareness including electoral laws and other related instructions. Participants will also endeavour to impart training to the nodal officer at ECI on their products/ services, including mechanism for sending requests as per procedure established by law.

1.   Participants and the Election Commission of India (ECI) have developed a notification mechanism by which the ECI can notify' the relevant platforms of potential violations of Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and other applicable electoral laws in accordance with procedures established by law. These valid legal orders will be acknowledged and/ or processed within 3 hours for violations reported under Section 126 as per the Sinha Committee recommendations. All   other   valid   legal   requests   will   be   acted   upon expeditiously by the Participants, based on the nature of reported violation.

1.   Participants are creating/opening a high priority dedicated reporting mechanism for the ECI and appoint dedicated person(s) / teams during the period of General Elections to interface with and to exchange feedback as may assist with taking expeditious action upon receipt of such a lawful request, following due legal process, from the ECI.

2.   Participants will provide a mechanism for relevant political advertisers, in accordance with their obligations under law, to submit pre-certificates issued by ECI and/ or Media Certification & Monitoring Committee (MCMC) of the ECI in relation to election advertisements that feature names of political parties, candidates for the 2019 General Elections. Further, Participants shall expeditiously process/action paid political advertisements lawfully notified to Participants by the ECI that do not feature such certification.

3.   Participants will commit to facilitating transparency in paid political advertisements, including utilising their pre-existing labels/ disclosure technology for such advertisements.

4.   Participants will, pursuant to a valid request received from the ECI, via Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) provide an update on the measures taken by them to prevent abuse of their respective platforms.

5.   IAMAI will coordinate with the Participants on the steps carried out under this Code and IAMAI as well as Participants will be in constant communication with the ECI during the election period.

Entry into Force 

This Code will become effective and will enter into force on 20th March 2019 and will be in force for the duration of the 2019 Indian General Elections.

  • Written by Denis Giles
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