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YouTube adds ‘Context’ information panel with ECI disclaimer and link to FAQs to videos raising doubts about EVM and VVPAT

The information panel directly below the video highlights the "safeguards" put in place to guarantee "free and fair" elections. It also includes a link to the ECI's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) webpage about EVMs and VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) devices.

YouTube started introducing a “Context” information panel earlier this week to videos that cast doubt on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) amid the opposition’s regular and scathing attacks on the device ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. It functions as an Election Commission of India (ECI) disclaimer. The information panel directly below the video highlights the “safeguards” put in place to guarantee “free and fair” elections. It also includes a link to the ECI’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) webpage about EVMs and VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) devices.

Screenshot from Newsx Live YouTube channel

“The strong technical safeguards in electronic voting machines and elaborate administrative safeguards, procedures and security put in place by ECI ensure that the elections are transparent, free and fair,” read the information panel, titled ‘Electronic Voting in India, Election Commission of India.’ The development transpired a few days after the poll panel sent a letter to YouTube and asked for the information to be introduced. The EC also provided a list of seventy videos along with it. The action was taken in response to concerns over the application of VVPATs and EVMs. YouTube search results for “EVM” have also begun to show the same information box.

Screenshot from YouTube

The opposition I.N.D.I. Alliance has written to the EC multiple times voicing reservations regarding EVMs and VVPAT machines barely months before the Lok Sabha elections scheduled to take place in April and May of this year. Responding to one such letter written by Jairam Ramesh, EC said that no new allegations have been made, and all the concerns raised by the opposition have been comprehensively addressed by the poll panel. The Election Commission has said that it has full faith in the use of EVMs in elections.

According to sources, additional content regarding EVMs will in the future include the information panel and a link to the FAQs. Furthermore, the EC is contacting X (Twitter) and Meta (Facebook) to request that disclaimers be incorporated into content pertaining to EVMs.

A report this week about veteran congress leader Jairam Ramesh writing to the EC to ask for a meeting to discuss VVPATs, a four-year-old interview of a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Kannan Gopinathan expressing worries about the use of VVPATs and a 2022 news report by a local TV channel in the United States city of Detroit about voting machines in Georgia are among the videos where the information panel has already been displayed.

According to the Georgia report, a professor of cyber security at the University of Michigan is involved in a legal dispute over claims that voting machines are vulnerable. The footage contains the same information panel even though it has nothing to do with India’s EVMs. This is because the film alludes to purported voting machine fraud, according to EC sources. Indian viewers can see the disclaimers.

Videos on subjects that are “prone to misinformation” are anticipated to have the “Context” panel, as per YouTube. “When you search or watch videos related to topics that are prone to misinformation, such as the moon landing, you may see an information panel at the top of your search results or under a video that you’re watching. Information panels show basic background info, sourced from independent, third-party partners, to give more context on a topic. These information panels will be shown regardless of what opinions or perspectives are expressed in a video,” mentions the platform’s ‘Why am I seeing this’ button on the information panel.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar had requested social media corporations to deploy artificial intelligence and algorithms to identify deepfakes when he spoke at an international conference in January of last year. According to him, the dissemination of “deepfake narratives” has become a global phenomenon during election seasons.

The opposition coalition had stated that EVMs appeared to be “susceptible to manipulation” in a memo sent to the European Commission on 9th August of last year. On 23rd August, the EC amended its “FAQs” webpage in reaction to providing answers to some of the queries.

The opposition has repeatedly asked for a meeting with the EC, most recently through Jairam Ramesh on 30th December. “On October 2, 2023, a follow-up representation was sent by us through counsel. The representation raised specific concerns which remained unaddressed in the ECI’s clarification of August 23, 2023. No response was received on the same. On December 20, 2023, we again requested an appointment with the ECI to ‘discuss and provide suggestions on the use of VVPATs’ based on a resolution passed at a meeting of leaders of INDIA parties held the previous day,” claimed the letter.

The voting panel reacted to the head of the Congress by stating that it had “full faith” in the EVM and that it and VVPAT comply with the laws that have been reinforced over the last forty years by successive Union administrations. The EC noted that the poll panel website’s “FAQ” section answered questions about EVM and VVPAT. The opposition was not satisfied with the reply they have received. The parties also approved a resolution last month calling for 100% counting of VVPAT slips rather than the existing 2% verification.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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