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Consider if time for removing flagged social media posts should be reduced: HC to EC

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Press Trust of India Mumbai
The Bombay High Court Friday directed the Election Commission of India to decide whether the three-hour limit for social media sites for taking down a problematic post can be reduced further.
The direction was passed by a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar.
In response to a PIL on political advertisements, the EC had said that as part of a 'Voluntary Code of Ethics' for the Lok Sabha election 2019, the commission had directed that a reported/flagged post be taken down within three hours.
The EC had submitted last week that it had proposed pre-verification rules for political ads on social media to ensure that they are displayed only after being verified by the EC.
The bench said Friday that the EC and social media intermediaries (sites) must ensure implementation of other norms under the Voluntary Code of Ethics.
It includes a direction that in the light of section 126 of the Representation of People Act, any advertisement on social media sites in the 48-hour period before the polling must not promote or cause prejudice to any party or candidate.
"Participants (social media sites) and the Election Commission of India have developed a notification mechanism by which the EC can notify the relevant platforms of potential violations of Section 126 and other electoral laws," EC counsel Pradeep Rajagopal had told the court.
"These valid legal orders will be...processed within three hours for violations reported," he had said.
The public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Sagar Suryavanshi, a lawyer, seeks directions to the EC to regulate fake news in the form of paid political ads on social media.
His lawyer Abhinav Chandrachud had argued that the three-hour window for taking action was too long and in India social media sites take several hours to take down a post.
To illustrate how quickly information spreads on the Internet, he said the video of the recent Christchurch mosque attack was taken down by authorities within a few minutes, but still it reached thousands of netizens.
"Considering the speed at which sometimes information spreads and travels on the Internet...the petitioner's contention is not entirely unfounded.
"This issue, however, will have to be looked into by the Election Commission. The commission will take a decision in respect of three hours' period within a week," the court said Friday.

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First Published: Mar 29 2019 | 9:55 PM IST

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