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Election Commission moots to blackout electronic media & social media 48 hours before the election

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday informed the Bombay high court that it is considering a blackout for electronic media and social media 48 hours before the election.

This means that the electronic and social media will be prohibited from showing political advertisements 48 hours before the voting day.

The ECI made the statement when the court asked why it was hesitant to issue specific directions to prohibit political advertisements on social media 48 hours before election day.

A division bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N.M. Jamdar was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a lawyer, Sagar Suryavanshi, seeking directions to the ECI to regulate fake news in the form of paid political ads on social media.

The PIL also urged the court to direct the ECI to prohibit all persons, whether politicians or private individuals, from posting advertisements related to politics or the elections, or paid political content on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, 48 hours before election day.

Twitter and YouTube told the bench Thursday that they only permitted such political ads that had been verified by the ECI. The social media sites, however, told the court that they could not voluntarily impose a 48-hour ban as sought by the petitioner.

The counsels for Facebook, Google, and YouTube said that they could prohibit display of political ads on their websites 48 hours before polling day, if they were directed by the ECI to do so.

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