Lok Sabha elections 2019: Don’t take 3 hours to remove objectionable content, high court tells social media sites

The Bombay high court, while directing the Election Commission of India (ECI) to frame guidelines pertaining to social media and its use for promotional purposes by political parties 48 hours before voting, on Friday also directed social media websites to remove objectionable content within a shorter time, rather than doing so in three hours.

A division bench of chief justice Naresh Patil and justice N M Jamdar was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Sagar Suryawanshi, a resident of Pune, where he raised issues regarding the use of social media.

On Friday, Suryawanshi pointed out that although the bench directed the ECI to take steps to curb use of social media for political promotions 48 hours before elections, nothing had been done as yet. On its part, the counsel for ECI submitted a document that had been released by it on March 23. The document he said referred to the upcoming general elections and the state legislative Assembly elections. The document also referred to the media coverage during the period referred to in Section 126 of the Act of 1951. The ECI further submitted a Voluntary Code of Ethics for the General Election, which was made by the Internet and Mobile Association of India. The ECI informed the bench that this document should be treated as a decision/ direction of the ECI, which the bench accepted.

When the petitioner objected to the ECI submission that it needed three hours to direct social media operators to remove objectionable material, the bench asked ECI and the sites whether they could cut down on the time. The operators said they would do so if they were given such directions as they had no interest in allowing or disallowing the objectionable material. In light of these submissions, the bench then asked ECI to frame and issue directions within a week for the social media operators.

First Published:
Mar 30, 2019 02:35 IST

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