If you are in a state or city that is going to polls today (Thursday), you would most likely find no political ads cluttering Facebook news feed or playing on your Youtube video, thanks to the Election Commission (EC).
But political posts or opinion by family members or friends are going to be on display. However, political posts, videos or pictures tagged ‘sponsored’ in the last few weeks will not be shown to you 48 hours before your city or state goes to vote.
“For the ads, we will be proactive in enforcement. This means, people in a state going to polls will not see any political ads on the platform,” said an employee of one of the technology platforms. About a month ago, while announcing the model code of conduct, the EC said that Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), which places an embargo on publishing and airing content that is likely to affect the election 48 hours before polling, would also be applicable to social media companies.
Following several rounds of discussion with the EC, technology firms had committed to cooperate with the commission and have updated their advertisement policies for political advertising in the country.
Facebook, Google and Twitter have strengthened their authentication mechanisms for entities running political ads, which includes a media certification and monitoring committee certificate from the poll panel.
For an ad, Facebook has made available granular data in which gender of persons who saw it and the number of views it got are being shown.
“All they have to do is silence the ad in that region. It is possible for social media firms to block these ads for specific regions,” said an industry executive who did not wish to be named. He added that most political advertising was seen on Facebook and Google among large platforms, while Twitter’s ad rates are “very high.”
What happens in cases like Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir, where polling will happen in three phases, a first for a constituency? Or even in states where different constituencies will go to polls in multiple phases? “Then the ad blocks will run across the state,” said the technology platform employee.