Voting for the Karnataka Assembly elections concluded on May 10. The Karnataka Election Commission issued a press note on May 7 containing some guidelines before the election. Guidelines for electronic media and social media were issued in the (f) section under Point No 14 of this press note. It clearly stated that Section 126 of The Representation of the People Act, 1951 prohibited displaying any election matter, inter alia of television, Cinematography or similar apparatus during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of the poll in a constituency.
In other words, according to the Election Commission’s guidelines, any election-related material, or other matters related to it, were not allowed to be broadcast on television, through cinematography or any other similar medium (social media) from 6 pm on May 8 to 6 pm on May 10.
For the past few months, Alt News has been doing research on Facebook’s parent company Meta’s Ad Library Report, in which we monitored political ads run by political parties and their affiliated pages on Facebook and Instagram. We have published two such reports (first report, second report) showing how the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ran political advertisements to target opposition parties and leaders through proxy pages. We were also looking at advertisements released in the run up to the Karnataka elections.
In this sequence, while doing research in Meta’s Ad Library Report, we found that the Facebook page ‘Nam Namo – ನಮ್ ನಮೋ’ ran political advertisements on Facebook and Instagram featuring election-related content within the last 48 hours (after 6 pm on May 8, May 9 and May 10) of the KAranataka elections. By running these advertisements, the Facebook page associated with BJP violated the rules of the Election Commission. We noticed that this page was running 64 ads on Facebook and Instagram on May 10 i.e., on the day of polling.
It can be seen in the screenshot given below that applying the filter ‘Active Status’ on May 10 leads to 64 results. The offline version of Meta Ad Library is attached here in MHTML and PDF format with ‘Active Status’ filter of Facebook page ‘Nam Namo – ನಮ್ ನಮೋ’ of BJP related Facebook page.
The target audience of all these advertisements was entirely users from Karnataka, as evident from the screenshot attached below.
The disclaimer of this page does not comply with Meta’s Advertising Standards.
According to the Advertising Standards of Meta, when an advertiser classifies an ad as related to social issues, elections or politics, they must include a disclaimer stating who paid for the ad. However, the disclaimer of this page contained incomplete information.
Last month, we unearthed a network of 23 such websites through which the ruling BJP ran political advertisements on Facebook targeting opposition parties and leaders. The disclaimer of the Facebook page linked to these websites contained incomplete information. And it had provided either the name of the website in the name of the advertiser or the name of the same page through which this advertisement was being run. We reported these pages to Meta. Following our report, Meta removed ads from nine Facebook pages, which previously were running ads with incomplete disclaimers, saying that they did not comply with its advertising standards.
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We had informed Meta about this page (Nam Namo – ನಮ್ ನಮೋ), and some other pages following a similar pattern on April 20. We wrote to them again about this page in view of the then-upcoming Karnataka Assembly elections. Alt News did not receive a response from Meta until May 10.
We informed Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, on election day i.e. 10th May, about the violation of Election Commission guidelines by this page.
On May 11, a Facebook spokesperson replied to us saying, “We have deleted the page that was highlighted to us”. The page about which we had informed Meta about had been deleted by them.
In the screenshot below, ‘Page has been unpublished or deleted’ can be seen under the name of this page. We are attaching the offline version of the Ad Library of the page post its deletion by Facebook in (MHTML and PDF) formats.
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