Instructions of the Commission with respect to use of Social Media in Election Campaigning

The Commission’s attention was drawn to use of social media for election campaigning and also certain violations of the Electoral Law in the social media, which need to be regulated in the interest of transparency and level playing field in the elections.

Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. It differentiates from traditional/ industrial media in many aspects such as quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy, and permanence. The prevalence of Web and social media has increased over the years and there have been demands from the political and social groups to regulate the social media during elections as other media is regulated.

There are broadly five different types of social media:

a) collaborative projects (for example, Wikipedia)
b) blogs and micro blogs (for example, Twitter)
c) content communities (for example, YouTube)
d) social networking sites (for example, Facebook)
e) virtual game-worlds (e.g., Apps)

Legal provisions relating to election campaigning apply to social media in the same manner in which they apply to any other form of election campaigning using any other media. Since social media is a relatively new form of media, it appears necessary to clarify to all concerned by the following instructions:-

A. Information to be given by candidates about their social media accounts. Candidates are required to file affidavits in Form-26 at the time of filing of nominations.

B. Pre-Certification of Political Advertisements.
Every registered/national and State political party and every contesting candidate proposing to issue advertisements on television channels and/ or on cable network will have to apply to Election  Commission of India/designated officer for pre-certification of all political advertisements on electronic media before the publication.

C. Expenditure on campaigning through internet including social media websites.
It is obvious that expenditure on election campaign through any advertisement in social media is a part of all expenditure in connection with the elections.

D. Application of Model Code of Conduct to content on internet including social media.
The Commission has a model code of conduct in place during the elections in respect of political parties and candidates which remains in force from the date the elections are announced by the Commission till the completion of elections. It is clarified that the provisions of model code of conduct and related instructions of the Commission issued from time to time shall also apply to the content being posted on the internet, including social media websites, by candidates and political parties.

E. As far as the content posted by persons other than candidates and political parties is concerned, the Commission is considering the matter in consultation with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology on practical.

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