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Election Commission to bring social media in the ambit of paid news

With over 800 million voters, the Indian election is the biggest voting event in the world. Unarguably bigger than the World Cup or Super Bowl events. Small wonders that social media giants find it an ideal event to increase their revenue and user base via media consumption. The Election Commission (EC) is now planning to treat social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp among other, potential carriers of fake news that can influence polls, at par with the traditional media. A change in the nomenclature may bring these platforms in the ambit of paid news.

Currently, there is no specific law against “paid news”. To make it applicable, the EC resorts to invoking Section 10A read with Section 77 of the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA) dealing with misreporting of funds and to treat publication of “reports” as political advertising. Once cleared, every promoted tweet, post and video by political parties on any of these social media platforms would be construed as paid news.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), O P Rawat said, “There are several allegations in the world against social media platforms and they are subject to many probes. We are taking all steps to contain this so that our elections do not get influenced by it.” When asked if the EC is planning to treat social media at par with general media, Rawat said, “We are also considering it. So far we have tried to ensure that no harm is caused to our elections through social media.”




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