EC tells govt to halt Viksit Bharat WhatsApp texts

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has asked the ministry of electronics and information technology to ensure that no messages regarding the Viksit Bharat Model are delivered to the WhatsApp numbers of users from today keeping in view the ongoing model code of conduct (MCC) before the 18th general elections, scheduled to take place between April and June.

“The Commission has received complaints from various quarters that such messages are still being delivered on citizens’ phones. Since the MCC is now in force, you are hereby directed to ensure forthwith that no further delivery of ‘WhatsApp messages‘ take place during MCC period. A compliance report in this regard may be sent immediately,” the ECI letter to the IT ministry said.

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Between March 17 and March 18, several users received messages from a WhatsApp number registered to the IT ministry, which sent a letter from the “Government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

The letter, signed by Modi, sought “ideas, suggestions and support” to fulfil the “resolve of building a Viksit Bharat”.

Several users, both in India and outside the country who received the letter, however, raised concerns about how the letter was sent directly to their WhatsApp numbers even if they had never shared it in any government programs.

The ECI shot a letter asking the IT ministry as to how these messages were sent to WhatsApp inboxes of the users even as the MCC was in place. In its reply, the IT ministry said that though the letter was sent out before the MCC kicked in, it was possible that “due to system architecture and network limitations”, some of the letters were delivered after March 15.

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