They include ads paid for by candidates and those that have been reported for being offensive and not in public interest
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In nearly a month after the model code of conduct came into force, election officials monitoring social media platforms have identified more than 150 posts violating it.
The violations include advertisements paid for by candidates and those that have been reported to the police for being offensive and not in public interest. Besides, after being brought to the notice of social media platforms, some of the posts have been taken down. A social media team is monitoring various platforms and users in the State, and has identified about one crore users.
“Those found to be paid advertisements have been brought to the notice of the returning officer and the election expenditure monitoring committee in the Lok Sabha constituency,” said an Election Commission source.
“We have taken rate cards for advertisements on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, where the advertisements were found, and have asked the electoral officers to bring the expenses to the candidate’s books.”
Those posts that are actionable under provisions of various laws have been reported to the police, sources said. Among the objectionable posts reported are morphed pictures of candidates over nude images. Sources, however, did not provide any specific cases in which police action has been recommended or initiated. Some posts that have been identified to be in violation of the poll code have not elicited police action and have been “removed in public interest”.
To seek clarification
Meanwhile, the office of the Chief Electoral Officer here will seek a clarification from the Election Commission of India about the action to be initiated against persons or organisations who violate the model code of conduct by pushing political advertisements.
Some of the advertisements that have popped up are in violation of the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) guidelines. Sources in the commission said these advertisements have come out without the MCMC certification, which is a must for all advertisements during the poll code period, which will end on May 27.
“We have identified the sites and taken them down. But we are not sure of what action is to be initiated against persons who have violated the MCMC guidelines. We will seek the opinion of the Election Commission,” a senior official told The Hindu. “With regards to hate speech, the logical conclusion is filing a criminal case against the individual. But we are not sure about the logical conclusion with the MCMC certification violations.”
A time-consuming process
To ensure speedy action against objectionable posts on social media, the office of the Chief Electoral Officer has written to the Election Commission seeking its directions on the issue. Sources said at present, if a post has to be removed, the recommendation to the social media platform has to go from the Election Commission, which is time-consuming.
“From Karnataka,some recommendations to remove posts were sent to social media platforms, which then asked us to route them through the EC. We have sought a clarification on this,” a source said.
Election Commission of India’s Model Code of Conduct
Election Commission of India’s Model Code of Conduct is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, election manifestos, processions and general conduct. These set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code in its letter and spirit.The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission for the need of ensuring free and fair elections. Its main purpose is to ensure that ruling parties, at the Centre and in the States, do not misuse their position of advantage to gain an unfair edge. It is designed to avert practices which are deemed corrupt under model code of conduct . For example, politicians should not make hate speeches, putting one community against another or make promises about new projects that may sway a voter.
For the 2019 Indian general election the code came into force on 10 March 2019 when the Commission announced the dates and remains in force till the end of the electoral process.