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EC plans to put WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter under “Silent Period”

PW Bureau

Committee said the 48-hour period prior to the closing time of polling in India is “sacrosanct” with voters given a period of silence to “independently consider their decision” New Delhi: An Election Commission of India (ECI)-formed committee has recommended that intermediaries such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter must not be permitted to circulate material in relation to this year’s General Elections for 48 hours until polling is over in a constituency. The 10-member committee, chaired by Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Umesh Sinha, has been set up to provide recommendations on Section 126 of the Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1951. “Silent period” Section 126 has to do with ‘Silent Period’, the time during which nobody can propagate any election matter to the public in the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of polls for any election in a polling area. The panel said the 48-hour period prior to the closing time of polling in India is “sacrosanct” with voters given a period of silence to “independently consider their decision”, a source said.

“The committee in its report recommended that intermediaries should also be brought within the scope of Section 126. It also said that there was a consensus on this from a large number of political parties, besides EC’s own recommendations and the recommendations made by the Law Commission,”

The panel had provided its suggestions in January. “The committee in its report recommended that intermediaries should also be brought within the scope of Section 126. It also said that there was a consensus on this from a large number of political parties, besides EC’s own recommendations and the recommendations made by the Law Commission,” a source in Election Commission said. Easy manipulation of news in intermediaries Intermediaries are rapidly turning out to be avenues for manipulating and influencing voters by offering a convenient platform for spreading fake or hate news, misinformation or disinformation across the world, sources say. “Like globally, elections in India too face a similar challenge and this problem is even more pertinent during the 48-hour prohibited period since during this sensitive period any false allegation against a party or candidate can unduly influence voters and hence there is an urgent need to address this serious concern,” he added.