New Delhi: The Election Commission has refused to disclose its correspondence with social media giants including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter under the Right to Information Act after objections raised by these companies, the poll panel had said. The Election Commission had received an RTI query by Pune-based activist Vihar Durve seeking information on the EC’s correspondence with social media companies between 2019 and 2022.
Applying the third party clause under section 11 of the Act, the Commission sought the views of the companies on disclosing the correspondence. In the case of an RTI applicant seeking third-party information, section 11 of the Act directs the Central Public Information Officer to take views of the third party concerned before disclosing the record. The final decision on disclosure rests with the officer.
Durve had sought the details of ”correspondence, record, information, emails (with the notings) etc made by the ECI with Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Telegram, any other social media platform” exchanged between ECI and these companies between 2019 and 2022. ”Disclosure of any communication between ECI and Social Media platforms would attract Section 11 of the RTI Act, 2005 i.e third party disclosure. Third-party is not in favor and made submission against disclosure,” the ECI said in response to Durve’s query while denying the information.
In the run-up to General Elections in 2019, social media companies had agreed to a voluntary code that included a silence period of 48 hours before polling.
According to the code, no political campaign will be allowed to be run on social media platforms in the last 48 hours before polling ends. This period is referred to as the ”silence period” to allow voters to take a considered decision without the heat and dust of the campaign on whom to vote.
The code also facilitates transparency in paid political advertisements.
This was for the first time internet-based companies voluntarily adopted the norms for online poll campaigns.