EC hires volunteers to track code violations on social media

The Election Commission of India is keeping a close watch on all social media to ensure politicians do not act in violation of the model code of conduct.

The poll panel has found able allies in civil society
members and students who care for the democratic process to keep a watch on the virtual space and ensure the campaign for the May 12
election complies with the code.

Joint Chief Electoral Officer Surya Sen A V said several concerned citizens and students were scanning through social media posts for poll code violations.

"Right now, we have about 10-15 students in Bengaluru working with us. Members of the civil society who care about the elections are also volunteering. At the district level, deputy commissioners are also involved," he said.

The commission recruited the volunteers after doing a background check to ensure they are neutral and are people of integrity, Sen said. The chosen volunteers were given a half-day training.

"We are looking out for everything from coupons and promo codes to bitcoins since everyone is now tech-savvy. We also look out for hate speech and messages," Sen said.

Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other communication channels are being scoured and daily reports are submitted to the complaints monitoring cell for action.

Sen said a recent incident of helmet-distribution as part of campaigning in Mahadevapura was discovered through messages on WhatsApp, which he described as the most difficult platform to track.

"But we have students, citizens and our sources who alert us when they come across messages which violate the code," Sen said.

While the volunteers work from home, the commission has a team of its own that monitors the social media platform in shifts.

Though social media played a minor yet significant role in the previous election, it has now become a crucial part of the campaign due to its increased use.

 

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