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Social Media Giants Tighten Operations Ahead of India’s Mega-Election

As India, the world’s largest democracy, gears up for a gigantic general electoral process, global social media companies are putting their own houses in order. The election runs in seven phases from April 11 through May 19, with results known on May 23.

Approximately 900 million Indians, many of whom are constantly exposed to social media via their phones, are eligible to vote in the elections. Facebook counts approximately 300 million subscribers in India, making the country its largest single market.

On Monday, Facebook removed hundreds of pages associated with the opposition Indian National Congress party and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” With ongoing tensions between India and neighboring Pakistan, the company removed 103 Facebook and Instagram pages with links to the Pakistan military.

The specter of fake news is all too real in India and, in a bid to curb this, on Tuesday, WhatsApp launched ‘Checkpoint Tipline’ where users can report suspicious material. The company will confirm whether the shared information is verified or not.

Earlier, on March 20, the Social Media Platforms and Internet And Mobile Association of India, which includes representatives of Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, ShareChat, TikTok and others, presented a voluntary code of ethics to Indian election commissioners. The code consists of several steps to prevent abuse, and to maintain a transparent flow of information to the Election Commission.

The Election Commission has an exhaustive model conduct code that all political parties are expected to adhere to, beginning with “No party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or causing tension between castes and communities, religious or linguistic.”

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