The Election Commission of India (ECI) may have been a little late in getting its act sorted out around social media and its usage by political parties during the course of elections but it is making every effort. According to reports, ECI has called for a meeting with websites on November 18 to discuss the use of social media by political parties and candidates in the ongoing five-state elections. The companies that have been called for the meeting are Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Ebay and Rediff.com.
Sharing more on the development, Rahul Sharma, Under Secretary in the Election Commission, has written to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) to coordinate the meeting and inform the respective companies.
The development comes on the heels when five states in the country are going to witness elections. The move is a positive one from the ECI which is trying to have free and fair elections. Additionally, considering the influence social media is having this year on elections and the investments that the medium is witnessing, ECI has kept a close eye on the medium.
While last month ECI had released social media guidelines for election campaigning, saying that its attention has been drawn to “certain violations of the Electoral Law in the social media”, which, worryingly enough, it says “need to be regulated in the interest of transparency and level playing field in the elections.” However it has been debated strongly.
Prior to it ECI also revealed about using a special digital system to monitor the Internet for possible violations of Model Code of Conduct ahead of next month’s Assembly elections. But the keyword tracking won’t have a great impact as I had shared in my piece – Is the Election Commission of India late in keeping a check on politicians’ use of social media? Not only tracking social media investments but monitoring fake social media profiles and objectionable content will also pose a big challenge.
In fact Chief Electoral Officer of Madhya Pradesh, Jaideep Govind agrees that, “Despite our best effort, the misuse of the media has often gone unnoticed.”
Nevertheless, it would be interesting to look for the outcome of the meeting. Especially at a time when Chitrita Chatterjee, the IAMAI’s Associate Vice President thinks that, “The Election Commission does not have the power to mandate what the web sites can do and not do.”