At a time when anonymous accounts on social media is proliferating, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has said the posts especially on platforms like Facebook that are in violation of the electoral laws would be removed.

Head of the department of election, Sonam Tobgay, said that this was in anticipation of misuse of social media that ECB framed the social media policy.

He said that social media posts that contained hate speeches and mudslinging among political parties, candidates and supporters would be removed by Facebook on Department of Information Technology and Telecom’s (DITT) request after the ECB informs the DITT.

Sonam Tobgay said DITT was identified the nodal agency to deal with Facebook.  He clarified that the ECB would not monitor social media posts and that reporting to Facebook will happen after the election date is announced.

The ECB Social Media Rules and Regulations 2018 aims to promote responsible use of the social media for effective communication among electoral stakeholders and to ensure a level-playing field for all the contestants and political parties.

“No individual shall communicate/transmit/post hate messages or any content with intent to defame or reduce the electoral chances of an opposing contestant or political party,” the social media rule states.

ECB, it states, shall ensure that electoral laws are not violated. “The ECB shall, as far as possible, establish contact with popular and widespread Social Media companies to seek support during an election in not allowing persons to use the forum or communicate contents which are in violation of the electoral laws.”

Any communication or material sent or forwarded or relayed by a civil servant, religious personality, armed forces or any entity in support or opposition of a political party or a candidate will be treated as political advertising and in direct violation of the electoral laws.

No one shall publish, broadcast, or transmit any item that is of the nature of election campaign supporting or opposing any political party or candidate during the no campaign period.

The rules identify the media arbitrator as the authority responsible to receive, investigate and or arbitrate media-related disputes as provided under the Media Coverage of Election Rules and Regulations 2018.

A team of experts from Facebook India Online Services Pvt. Ltd. (FIOSPL) was in the country for three days to discuss, among others, how to keep social media platform free of such accounts and contents.

MB Subba