Twitter hashtags must be seen as political advertisements, suggests panelLast updated on Mar 02, 2021, 01:44 pm
An expert committee has said that hashtag trends on Twitter must be seen as political advertisements during the election process, TOI reported on Tuesday.
The panel, headed by ex-IRS officer Harish Kumar was formed last year to review expenditure limits during electioneering. On January 24, it had submitted its interim report.
The Election Commission is learned to have accepted the recommendations.
Twitter is a place for highly polarized narratives: Panel
Though Twitter had banned political advertisements in 2019, political groups take to hashtags to target rivals and show that they control the narrative.
The expert panel dubbed Twitter as a place for "highly polarized narratives," and said that it has become an important forum for campaigning.
It also explained that trending a hashtag hinted at coordination between party workers and a candidate's sympathizers.
Twitter hashtags must come under MCMC's jurisdiction
Further, the panel underlined that a hashtag could not be trended without an elaborate social media cell or the hiring of bot accounts.
The committee suggested bringing Twitter hashtags under the jurisdiction of media certification and monitoring regulations (MCMC) of the Election Commission.
It also recommended setting up a separate social media monitoring cell in the office of the district election officer (DEO).
High-ranked officials asked to work on modalities
The panel suggested that tools like botometer can monitor accounts supporting a campaign hashtag.
Senior EC officials like Umesh Sinha, Dharmendra Sharma, and Chandra Bhushan Kumar have been tasked to work on the modalities of the recommendations, the report added.
The new rules would, however, not be enforced for the polls in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry.
Meanwhile, Twitter and GoI are locked in an intense battle
The suggestions come amid an ongoing battle between the Indian government and Twitter. The United States-based microblogging website had earlier unblocked a plethora of accounts which the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre flagged as dangerous.
Last month, Twitter was served with non-compliance notices; it later said it was acting in line with its principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression.
Twitter won't be allowed to tamper with polls: RS Prasad
Last month, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had also said the Centre would not tolerate election meddling, engineered by Twitter.
"We respect the election process of India. If social media platforms are misused to tamper with the election process, our Election Commission and the government will take stern action," he said in the Parliament, adding that foreign companies have to honor Indian laws.