Purity of Indian democracy too sacred, EC monitoring use of social media: Ravi Shankar Prasad

Asked if the IT ministry was monitoring the situation, he said the Election Commission (EC) is already monitoring it and also has the power to take action.

Published: 21st March 2019 11:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st March 2019 11:25 AM   |  A+A-

Union Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (File | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Wednesday sounded a warning to social media companies not to allow their platforms to be abused to influence elections, and said the Election Commission is maintaining vigil on the issue.

Stating that the purity of Indian democracy is "too sacred", the minister said while the use of social media for campaigning was okay, platforms should ensure that the data is not abused under any circumstances.

Asked if the IT ministry was monitoring the situation, he said the Election Commission (EC) is already monitoring it and also has the power to take action.

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Prasad said, "the Election Commission is already monitoring it (situation). Let them monitor it. They held a meeting. It is only appropriate and desirable that the EC must monitor, coordinate and lay the ground rule for working of social media during elections."

"On my side, I can only make this observation that the purity of Indian democracy is too sacred, and social media please ensure that the data is not abused to influence the election. If someone wants to use social media for campaigning I have no problem."

The comments come a day after the social media intermediaries and the internet and mobile association Tuesday told the Election Commission that they would shortly come up with a draft 'code of ethics' for the industry as part of a mechanism to prevent abuse of social media platforms during the Lok Sabha elections beginning April 11.

Representatives of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok had been called by the poll panel to discuss the issue of evolving mechanism to prevent abuse on social media platforms.

The EC also wanted to ensure that elections are insulated from outside influence.

A statement issued by the EC had said the meeting also discussed evolving a 'notification' mechanism by social media platforms for acting upon the violations of Section 126 of Representation of the People Act, 1951, and preventing misuse of these platforms.

Section 126 of the Act prohibits advertising and campaigning on TV and other electronic media during the silent period, which is 48 hours before the end of polling.

With ensuing general elections, the Indian government had warned social media platforms of strong action if any attempt was made to influence the country's electoral process through undesirable means.

Over the past few months, social media players and tech firms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have promised to infuse more transparency into political advertisements on their platforms, and have since announced a slew of measures as part of election integrity efforts.

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