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

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The Social Media Platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), presented a “Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election 2019” to Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners.

Which Social Media?

The Code of Ethics has been developed as a follow up to the meeting with IAMAI and representatives of Social Media Platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat and TikTok etc.Participants have agreed to take action on the content reported by the nodal officer, expeditiously, in accordance with the law.

Key Facts:

  • The code’s purpose is to identify measures that the platforms can take to increase confidence in the electoral process. It is also to safeguard against misuse that vitiates the “free and fair character” of the Lok Sabha polls.
  • The platforms 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 on electoral matters.
  • The platforms and the Commission have developed a notification mechanism by which the electoral body can notify them of potential violations under Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, and on other matters.
  • These valid legal orders will be acknowledged and/or processed within three 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.
  • Participants will, pursuant to a valid request received from the EC, via Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), provide an update on the measures taken by them to prevent abuse of their respective platforms.
  • The IAMAI will coordinate with the platforms on the steps taken under the code.

About Fake news:

  • Fake news is ‘news’ put forward fraudulently by people just working the system at publications that aren’t really news organizations.
  • It can either be politically motivated and well-funded (in some cases perhaps by state-level actors) or it can just be spam.
  • This news has catchy headlines and juicy stories but has absolutely zero concern for the truth, nor usually any concern for appearing truthful other than for just long enough to trick some poor sap into sharing it.
  • Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention.
  • It is promoting religious ideologies. Glorifying one religion while despising others Ex. Right wing violence meted out by Gau rakshaks leads to religious polarisation and communal unrests.

What gives rise to that?

  • First is the ‘distribution’ problem – and this is something that Facebook and Twitter and others are struggling to deal with.
  • Second is that various problems with traditional media have given rise to a real loss of trust, and this has given rise to the plausibility and gullibility. In short, when we get biased news, frequent errors, clickbait headlines, an extreme race to publish first (whether a story is confirmed or not) then the public doesn’t know who to trust or what counts as real.

What’s the solution?

  • Independent press: Independent, trusted and effective press regulation. Regulation to ensure opinion polls and exit polls show the truth based on rational criteria put in public domain.
  • Social media utility: Mainstream media must use social media tools intensively in order to defend the truth, present the correct information and balance opinions.
  • Curb media ownership: We need an open debate on the impact of media concentration on our democracy and wider culture. There should be clear limits on media ownership so that powerful proprietors with vested interests are not allowed to dominate the news agenda.
  • There should be grievance redressal mechanisms and arbitration spaces to resolve issues.
  • Digital media literacy among people to increase scrutiny and feedbacks of the content.
  • Technical solutions that assess the credibility of information circulating online are also needed. Eg: Fact checking organisations like Factly and Webgoof.
  • Proactive EC: Internet major Google and social media giants Twitter and Facebook have assured the Election Commission that they will not allow their platforms to be used for anything which affects the purity of polls during campaign period.






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