Representatives of six Internet giants have reached the Election Commission's headquarters in New Delhi to hammer out a mechanism for curbing fake news on social media ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next month.
The election body had summoned representatives of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, Sharechat and Tiktok for the meeting on Saturday. A six-point agenda for the meet included the "evolution of a mechanism by social media platforms to prevent abuse on their platforms" and pre-certification of all political advertisements on social media platforms by the Media Certification And Monitoring Committee of the Election Commission.
The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, with the votes being counted on May 23. With social media platforms turning into a hotbed for circulation of fake political news in recent years, Internet firms have come under intense scrutiny from the Election Commission ahead of the polls.
Besides installing safeguards, the poll body wants social media platforms to voluntarily inform users about the consequences of indulging in "unlawful conduct during the elections and, in particular, the 48-hour silent period" immediately preceding polling day. It has also asked social media intermediaries to adopt a general code of ethics in view of the electoral contest.
Social media platforms, for their part, have taken various steps to curb the circulation of fake news that may either favour certain political parties or incite the public. Last month, Facebook expanded its local fact-checking network and introduced stricter rules for political advertisements in India. WhatsApp -- a social messaging platform with over 200 million users in India -- introduced product changes and undertaken roadshows after false messages circulated on it fanned communal tensions and sparked mob violence. Twitter has also overhauled its policies to boost transparency and rein in misinformation.
Alphabet's Google, for its part, has launched a programme to train journalists in areas such as online verification and fact-checking before the polls.