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AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve

These ads are in violation of both the silence period and the voluntary code of ethics.

Published
Elections
4 min read
These ads are in violation of both the silence period and the voluntary code of ethics
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With less than 24 hours to go for the first phase of polling in the Lok Sabha elections, candidates from the 91 parliamentary constituencies facing the ballot are expected to follow the ' 48-hour silence period', as mandated by Section 126 of the Representation of Peoples (RP) Act, 1951.

However, their activities on social media paint a different picture altogether.

A cursory glance at Facebook's Ad Library, which provides details on political ads spending by various pages on the platform, shows that between candidates from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, close to 50 advertisements are up and running, in violation of the mandatory silence period.

A perusal of the Facebook ads library reveals that the two neighbouring states have been far more active in spending on political ads on Facebook compared to other states. Eight of the top 20 advertisers belong to either Andhra Pradesh or Telangana.

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Who Are These Candidates?

The Quint was able to identify about 10 candidates from the two states – nine from Andhra Pradesh and one from Telangana – in its analysis of the Ad Library.

A keyword search for "vote" in the ad library's search bar threw up close to 150 active ads, of which almost one-third stemmed from the two southern states, which are set to vote on 11 April.

Now let's take a look at the candidates from Andhra Pradesh, who have active ads running on Facebook.

It is pertinent to note here that Andhra Pradesh will simultaneously vote for its state legislature as well, on 11 April.

1. Vasupalli Ganesh Kumar

Party: Telugu Desam Party
Constituency: South Visakhapatnam (Assembly)
Active ads: 15

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)

2. Vegulla Jogeswararao

Party: Telugu Desam Party
Constituency: Mandapeta (Assembly)
Active ads: 1

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)

3. Maddali Giridhara Rao

Party: Telugu Desam Party
Constituency: Guntur West (Assembly)
Active ads: 1

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)
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4. Kothapalli Geetha

Party: YSR Congress Party
Constituency: Araku (Assembly)
Active ads: 6

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)

5. Malla Vijaya Prasad (YSRCP)

Party: YSR Congress
Constituency: West Visakhapatnam (Assembly)
Active ads: 5

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)

6. Chinta Anuradha

Party: YSR Congress
Constituency: Amalpuram (Lok Sabha)
Active ads: 1

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)

7. Buggana Rajendranath Reddy

Party: YSR Congress
Constituency: Dhone (Assembly)
Active ads: 8

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)
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8. Sanjeev Kumar Singari (YSRCP)

Party: YSR Congress
Constituency:
Kurnool (Lok Sabha)
Active ads:
33

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)

9. Hafeez Khan

Party: YSR Congress
Constituency:
Kurnool (Assembly)
Active ads:
18

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)

In Telangana, we found only one candidate – Vinod Kumar Boianapalli from the TRS. Boianapalli is the sitting MP from the Karimnagar constituency in the state. He has three active ads running.

AP, Telangana Candidates Flout Silence Period With Ads on Poll Eve
(Photo Courtesy: Screenshot from Facebook Ad Library)
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What Does the Law Say About These Ads?

While Section 126 of the RP Act does not expressly mention advertising on social media during the silence period, the Election Commission has come to accept that this does fall under its purview.

On the subject of advertisements, this section of the Act currently reads:

“No person shall display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus in any polling area during the period of forty-eight hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of the poll for any election in that polling area.”
Section 126, Representation of People’s Act, 1951

Meanwhile, social media platforms, in association with the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), too have presented a "Voluntary Code of Ethics" for the elections.

With this "Code of Ethics", the platforms have committed to process any vioaltions reported under Section 126 of the RP Act within three hours, as per the SInha Committee recommendations.

The Sinha Committee, chaired by senior deputy election commissioner Umesh Sinha, had submitted a report detailing several measures to prevent the misuse of social media platforms during the 48-hour silence period.

The report, which contained modifications to Section 126 of the RP Act, also has some important observations on the impact of social media and the difficulties in regulating it during the mandatory ‘silence periods’ in multi-phase elections.

The report, however, is yet to be made public by the Election Commission.

Clearly, these ads are in violation of both the silence period and the voluntary code of ethics. The question remains, will the EC and platforms take action as is required of them?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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