The top brass of social media organisations including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat, TikTok and BigoTV have agreed to come up with a ‘Code of Ethics’ to check misuse of social media during the election campaign.

The decision to devise a self-regulatory ‘code of ethics’ on the lines of the Model Code of Conduct was taken at a meeting with the full bench of the Election Commission here on Tuesday.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and the top brass of social media organisations (including Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat, TikTok and BigoTV) have willingly agreed to come up with a ‘Code of Ethics’ for the industry laying down operational details by Wednesday evening, said a senior official of the Election Commission.

The Election Commission had an in-depth interactive session with the representatives of various social media platforms and IAMAI on the use of social media. The commission also discussed various other issues including the appointment of a dedicated grievance channel for expeditious action by the organisations, pre-certification and transparency in the expenditure of political advertisements.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the Model Code of Conduct is a unique and historic document which is followed by all political parties from the date of declaration of schedule of elections till the election process is concluded. “This Code is the outcome of consensus evolved among the different political parties and ECI,” the CEC said.

He exhorted the social media organisations, who are formidable force-multipliers, to come up with a similar Code for the ongoing election process in the immediate context and a lasting document in the long run.

Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa pointed out that Tuesday’s has been a momentous meeting for the evolution of the ‘behaviour’ of social media platforms. Lavasa said voluntary restraint is the hallmark of a civilised society and works as effectively as any regulation. He suggested that a clear clause on users’ voluntarily agreeing not to misuse social media platforms for election or political purposes should be considered by the management.

CEC said the role of social media in helping spread information as well as curbing misinformation cannot be underestimated. He added that deterrents like punitive action against users misusing the platform should be considered pro-actively. A participative approach from the social media platforms would greatly help ECI meet its objectives, the EC told representatives of social media organisations.