The Election Commission of India announced the poll dates of the general election for 2019 on March 10. This time, the model code of conduct spelling out dos and don'ts for elections includes social media as well.
Clarifying the contribution of social media in the elections, the Election Commission (EC) said that the social media will also have to cater to the model code of conduct and its pre-certified political advertising rules.
As per the rules, all the major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and WhatsApp are obligated to accept only pre-certified political advertisements. Also, these platforms will share expenditure with the EC and act in accordance with the 'silent period' 48 hours before the polls.
Chief election commissioner Sunil Arora reportedly said that the content being posted on the social media by candidates and political parties will have to adhere to the provisions of model code of conduct.
Similar to the electronic and radio advertisements, the bulk SMSes/Voice messages sent on the phone and election campaigning via social media will require pre-certification. A social media expert will be appointed for the district and state-level media certification and monitoring committees for inspection during the model code period.
CEC Sunil Arora announced that candidates contesting the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 have to submit the details of their social media accounts at the time of filing of nominations and the expenditure on social media campaigning will also be considered within their limit of election expenditure account.
The payments regarding websites carrying advertisements and campaign-related expenditure including salaries paid to those who are employed to maintain their social media account, and produce creative content, also have to be accounted for with the EC. Complaints in connection to the election-related advertisements on all social media platforms will be reviewed by a grievance officer.
For candidates contesting Lok Sabha elections, the election expenditure ceiling is fixed at INR 70 Lakh. However, In Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Sikkim, the expenditure ceiling is INR 54 Lakh.
According to the recent data shared by Facebook, BJP spent Rs 2.37 crore in terms of advertisements on the social media platform till February followed by the regional parties at Rs 19.8 Lakh and Congress - Rs 10.6 lakh.
To monitor the political advertisements ahead of the elections, Facebook last year announced stern rules and even ruled that to run an ad, the advertiser will have to confirm their identity and location apart from the details regarding the person placing the ad. The IT giants have also promised to take action against Hate Speech.