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Twitter Hashtags Should be Treated as Political Ads, Says Expert Panel Set up by EC

An expert committee set up by the Election Commission last year has recommended that ‘Hashtag’ trends on Twitter be treated as political ads during the election process.

The committee, in its interim report submitted to the pol panel in January, also called for the creation of a separate social media monitoring cell in the district election officer’s (DEO) office so that political ads on social media can be tracked during the elections, Times of India reported.

In February, India had rebuked Twitter for not complying with its orders to take down certain content and warned the social media giant that it needs to obey local laws.

The Centre had also warned that it may arrest Twitter’s top executives in India stating that its list of accounts sought to be censured over “inflammatory content” was not negotiable. The government added that its “patience is running out” over refusal of the company to follow the earlier notice given under Section 69A of the IT Act.

The report added that the US micro-blogging giant, which partially followed the order by taking down around half of the accounts sought to be blocked by the government, may now approach the courts as it holds ground in the defence of “right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve”.

India has ordered Twitter to remove more than 1,100 accounts and posts that it alleges are spreading misinformation about the widespread protests by Indian farmers against new agricultural laws.

The government also said, “Twitter is free to formulate its own rules and guidelines. But Indian laws which are enacted by the Parliament of India must be followed irrespective of Twitter’s own rules and guidelines.”

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