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Norms absent, bots make merry online

Such advertisements have to be certified by the EC’s Media Certification and Monitoring Committee. But no such restrictions apply to unofficial accounts of parties or candidates.

Published: 06th March 2021 05:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th March 2021 05:20 AM   |  A+A-

Cyber crime, IT act, Online fraud

Image for representational purpose only. ( Express Illustration)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: It’s been eight years since the Election Commission (EC) extended all legal provisions related to election campaigns to social media platforms. Yet, political parties’ bots fly below the radar, as there’s no mechanism to restrict them. Election candidates have to give the EC details of their social media accounts, and the money they spend to advertise on social platforms is to be counted as part of their election expenses.

Such advertisements have to be certified by the EC’s Media Certification and Monitoring Committee. But no such restrictions apply to unofficial accounts of parties or candidates. In 2019, the EC held a meeting with social media platforms and the Internet and Mobile Association of India to develop a code of ethics for users, and steps to curb the spread of misinformation.

EC officials confirmed that they keep a tab of official social media accounts of political parties and leaders, but have no way to monitor social media users engaged by parties. Most political parties, including the AIADMK, DMK, BJP, Congress, AMMK, PMK, NTK, VCK and PT, have dedicated IT cells to promote themselves on social media.

In the past year, IT cells have engaged several Twitter handles to make specific hashtags trend. T his apart, Twitter users who are not linked to IT cells of political parties engage in social media discussions and vouch for specific parties. “It’s no secret that networks of paid bots engaged by political parties are active on social media. But there are too many legal hurdles in linking them directly to political parties,” said an official.

All online posts to be scrutinised?
Official EC documents reveal that the Commission is in consultation with the Ministry of Communication and IT on ways to deal with content posted by people other than political parties and candidates



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