December 10, 2019
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    Special social media policing unit mooted for election period

    September 17, 2019

    The Police is considering operating a special internet social media policing system and unit for the upcoming presidential elections, Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police in Charge of Elections Jagath Abeysiri Gunawardena said yesterday. “However,” he said, “how we should go about this is still under discussion. ”The Election Commission has discussed the subject with the Police, he said. “Should we set up a special unit for monitoring usage of social media for committing election violations, we will do so in consultation with the Election Commission and with their consent,” he said.

    Asked whether the idea has been proposed, Gunawardena said: “We have discussed, and the Election Commission had yet to put it in the picture in writing.”The Elections Commission had recently asked at least 12 heads of various internet social networking platforms, including the India-based regional administrators of Facebook, to have regulatory initiatives of their own at the national and at the international level to preserve the integrity of elections and similar politically delicate activity.

    The Oxford Internet Institute notes: “The number of countries where formally organized social media manipulation occurs has greatly increased, from 28 to 48 countries globally. The majority of growth comes from political parties who spread disinformation and junk news around election periods.There are more political parties learning from the strategies deployed during Brexit and the US 2016 Presidential election: more campaigns are using bots, junk news, and disinformation to polarize and manipulate voters.

    At the meeting recently held with the social media platforms and news media chiefs at the Election Secretariat in Rajagiriya, the Election Commissioners raised the issue of hate speech and disinformation that could emanate from their media platforms which could have serious repercussions during an election.Police officials say that they could take action against any election violations or disinformation threats within the framework of the law.

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