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Election Commission asks candidates to report social media accounts and spends

NEW DELHI: With the social media gaining prominence among politicians to connect with voters, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has now asked electoral candidates to provide information about their social media accounts at the time of filing nomination paper.

According to an order issued by the ECI, candidates are required to file affidavits in Form-26 specifying their contact number, email ID, and social media accounts.

The ECI contended that expenditure on election campaign through any advertisement in social media is a part of all expenditure in connection with the elections. The Representation of the People Act, 1951, requires every candidate to keep an account of all election related expenditure.

For the sake of removing any ambiguity, it is hereby directed that candidates and political parties shall include all expenditure on campaigning, including expenditure on advertisements on social media, both for maintaining a correct account of expenditure and for submitting the statement of expenditure, the commission said in the order.

This, among other things, shall include payments made to internet companies and websites for carrying advertisements and also campaign related operational expenditure on making of creative development of content, operational expenditure on salaries and wages paid to the team of workers employed by such candidates and political parties to maintain their social media accounts.

The ECI also stated that the Model Code of Conduct that comes into force when the election dates are announced will now also extend content on internet including social media.

It is clarified that the provisions of model code of conduct and related instructions of the Commission issued from time to time shall also apply to the content being posted on the internet, including social media websites, by candidates and political parties, ECI clarified.

As far as the content posted by other people is concerned, the commission said it is considering the matter in consultation with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology on practical ways to deal with the issue whether they can be reasonably connected with the election campaigning of political parties and candidates.

These instructions may please be brought to the notice of all concerned including candidates, political parties, media and election observers for immediate necessary action, the ECI said.