Will verify political ads, Facebook assures court

The Asian Age.

Metros, Mumbai

Ads will be first sent to EC for approval, says Google

The Court told EC that you are not helpless or powerless.

Mumbai: Online media websites like Facebook, YouTube and Google have informed the Bombay high court that they have come up with a policy wherein all the advertisers who want to post political ads will have to submit their identification details to the companies. Facebook has said that it has implemented this policy in the USA, UK and Brazil and from February 21 it will be initiated in India. According to the policy, every advertiser has to show his passport, PAN card, driving licence and pin code address to the company.

A division bench of the Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N.M. Jamdar was hearing a petition filed by Sagar Suryawanshi who is seeking ban on advertisements which are posted on social media before elections. Petitioner informed the court that during elections some paid advertisements are circulated on social media to promote political parties and as per model code of conduct, before 48 hours of election no party can advertise or do promotions.

The petitioner’s lawyer, Abhinav Chandrachud, however, told the bench that the Facebook has advertising policies in the UK and the USA where all advertisements and paid content were subjected to a strict verification process.

On Monday, Darius Khambhata who represen-ted Facebook informed the court that, “We are starting policy under which every advertiser (who wants to advertise political or nation interest ads) will have to give all the identification details like passport, PAN card, driving licence and pin code address to the company.”

He further said “Before publishing the advertisemenmt on FB, advertiser’s address will also be verified by sending a person or letter on the given address to confirm his residence.”

Mr Khambata informed the court that from March 2019 we are starting archive system wherein we will save all the political paid advertisement in our library and it will be saved for next seven years with the company. Hence, if Election Commission req-uires any particular advertisement we can provide them, said Mr Khambata.

Senior counsel Iqbal Chagala, who represented Google and YouTube, said, “We are following identification policy since 2013. But we have now decided  that the ads that come to us will be first sent to EC for approval. After the complete process, It will be pu-blished on our network.”

The Court told EC that you are not helpless or powerless. You have responsibility to conduct elections in free and fair manner and our constitution has given you powers to do so.

FB and YouTube also said the court if EC finds any objectionable ad we are ready to remove it during the election period. EC will file affidavit in reply on FB and YouTube on February 28.