Cong questions EC on getting social media post on electoral bonds deleted

PTI, Apr 17, 2024, 5:25 PM IST

The Congress on Wednesday questioned the Election Commission’s move to get a post on electoral bonds scheme deleted from social media platform X and said that the issue raised in the post makes the government ”extremely uncomfortable”.

The opposition party’s remarks came after the social media platform X said that the Election Commission ordered it to take down select posts of YSR Congress, AAP, N Chandrababu Naidu and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Samrat Choudhary for violation of the model code of conduct.

The orders were issued on April 2 and April 3 and a follow-up email was sent by the poll panel on April 10 in which it cited a violation of the ”voluntary code of ethics” if ‘X’ fails to remove the four posts reported to it.

Congress spokesperson and party’s social media department head Supriya Shrinate said the Election Commission had asked platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to delete some posts, one of which was about electoral bonds.

She said it is incumbent upon the poll watchdog to ensure that free and fair elections happen and that whenever someone breaches the model code of conduct, they are hauled up, including those making hate speeches, religious references and crass and vulgar statements.

”So that is why it is very surprising that the EC chose to get a tweet deleted which raised the issue of electoral bonds. Why would they do that? ”One does not understand but obviously electoral bonds is an issue which makes the government extremely uncomfortable,” Shrinate told reporters at the AICC headquarters here.

She claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried his best to give an explanation on the electoral bonds issue and ”not just sounded defensive but stopped making sense”.

”Those donating to the BJP were the ones winning the big contracts. People being raided by ED and Income Tax department were donating so this was an extortion racket that was happening and the country now knows about it,” she claimed.

Citing Rahul Gandhi’s remarks at a press conference earlier in the day, Shrinate alleged that the prime minister is a ”champion of corruption” as he was ”breeding graft through the electoral bonds scheme”.

”I do want to raise that there is a pattern as far as social media platforms are concerned. This government is very uncomfortable with social media platforms, digital platforms and YouTube channels because it has been able to convert large sections of mainstream media into cheerleaders of the government that do not ask it about jobs, price rise, justice for the girl in Hathras or our athletes,” Shrinate said.

There is a pattern of how social media platforms and independent media are being ”systematically attacked”, she alleged.

Shrinate cited how multiple social media accounts of farmer leaders, associations and independent journalists were all ”restricted” during the farmers’ movement.

”I would like to say that social media platforms are being curbed at a time when IT rules of 2021 are under contention across courts in India,” she said.

The government of the day must do some soul-searching about ”suppressing these voices”, Shrinate added.

On Tuesday, social media platform ‘X’ said the Election Commission has issued takedown orders requiring the microblogging site to act on posts containing political speech shared from elected politicians, political parties and candidates for office.

The poll panel found that the objectionable posts were in violation of the model code of conduct that bars criticising political parties based on any aspects of the private life of leaders or workers of other parties that are not connected with public activities or based on unverified allegations or distorted facts.

”In compliance with the orders, we have withheld these posts for the remainder of the election period. However, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts and political speech in general,” the microblogging site said.

”We have notified the affected users and in the interest of transparency, we are publishing the takedown orders here. We call on the Election Commission to publish all of its takedown orders going forward,” it said.

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