Only ads verified by EC to be published: Facebook, Google tell Bombay HC

Only ads verified by EC to be published: Facebook, Google tell Bombay HC
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Reuters
19 Feb, 2019

Social media platforms Facebook, Google and YouTube on Monday said they will conduct a “pre-verification process” for online political ads. The move comes after the Bombay High Court heard a public interest litigation (PIL) that demanded that the Election Commission of India (ECI) monitor fake news in the form of paid political advertisements on social media platforms, a report by wire agency the Press Trust of India, stated.

According to the report, the PIL stated that social media platforms can stop political advertisements from appearing on their sites 48 hours before polling, if the ECI directs them to do so. The Representation of the People’s Act has clear guidelines on this for traditional advertisements and campaigning, which in 2013 also included digital ads and online campaigns. However, the lawyers of Facebook and Google stated that the ECI will have to issue stronger directions in this regard to the platforms as well as political parties for full compliance, the report added.

Facebook’s counsel Darius Khambata said that the company will implement a pre-verification process in India from 21 February for posting an ad, similar to its existing framework in the UK, US and Brazil.

“Beginning Thursday, any Indian national who wishes to post an advertisement on politics or any matter of national interest on Facebook will need to submit his or her ID card issued by a valid Indian authority, submit proof of residence based in India, and pay for it only in Indian currency," said Khambata in his submission, as quoted by PTI.

Google has also launched a searchable political ads library to trace who pays for ads.

“We already only carry ads that have been verified or certified by the ECI. Any Indian national wishing to post a political ad is required to submit valid ID, proof of residence, and to pay only in Indian currency,” said Iqbal Chagla, counsel for Google and YouTube.

The bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice NM Jamdar has directed the ECI to file its response, reported PTI.