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2024 Lok Sabha Elections
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India Sets up Election Control Rooms to Combat Fake News, AI Deepfakes

CC0 / Midjourney AI / An Artificial Intelligence's Interpretation of Police Using Artificial Intelligence to Predict Crime. Created by Midjourney AI v5, October 3, 2023
An Artificial Intelligence's Interpretation of Police Using Artificial Intelligence to Predict Crime. Created by Midjourney AI v5, October 3, 2023 - Sputnik India, 1920, 07.03.2024
Around 960 million Indian voters will cast their ballots across 1.1 million polling stations in the upcoming national election. The election will be the biggest democratic exercise in the world till date.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has set-up integrated control rooms to combat fake narratives and news doing rounds of social media ahead of the upcoming national election for 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar told reporters during a briefing in New Delhi on Thursday.

The polling chief also flagged challenges arising from the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) deepfakes as another problem for the ECI in the way of ensuring a free and fair election process.

Kumar described managing election campaigning on social media as one of the "top challenges" for India's apex polling body.

He said that the Election Commission was working on three different levels to manage narratives and information on social media in order to ensure a "level-playing field" for all the political parties and candidates participating in the upcoming election, which would witness Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeking a third consecutive term to lead the world's largest democracy.
"On the first level, we are urging candidates and political parties to exercise self-restraint. The candidates are being advised to be careful about propagating fake narratives on social media and in public, refrain from making personal allegations as well as maintain decorum in the conduct," Kumar said, adding that sectarian remarks as well as casteist comment by candidates won't be tolerated in line with election laws.
The polling body chief explained that control rooms had been established on the second level of monitoring.
"The control rooms will have dedicated teams for social media narrative analysis as well as check content in order to ensure that level-playing field or public order isn't disturbed. The control room will have the authority to file police complaints (First Information Reports) against candidates or people found violating the guidelines," Kumar stated.
He said that the third level of vetting would involve "enforcing" the directives of the control rooms.

"The dedicated officers have the authority to block contentious URLs or ask intermediaries (such as X, Meta*) to take down certain posts. This is directed at calibrating freedom of expression (FOE)," the Chief Election Commissioner said.

How will the Control Rooms Function?

Responding to a question from Sputnik India at the briefing, Kumar explained that the integrated control rooms would monitor information from six sources- social media, television, online grievance portal, helpline number, footage from polling booths as well cVigil app (which enables voters to report violation of the Model Code of Conduct).
He said that the teams manning the control rooms would have the authority to lodge complaints with law-enforcement agencies if they find anything amiss with social media or television feeds.
"The other four mechanisms of monitoring are feed-based, where complaints are flagged by voters and citizens for authorities to look into," stated Kumar.
The polling body chief said that teams would comprise officials from law-enforcement, judicial services and other experts to ensure a level-playing field.
"There is a thin line between freedom of expression and misleading narratives or fake news," Kumar remarked, explaining the complexity of the challenge.
*Meta is banned as an extremist organization in Russia.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, arrives to lead the opening of a temple dedicated to Hinduism's Lord Ram in Ayodhya, India, Jan. 22, 2024. - Sputnik India, 1920, 06.03.2024
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