Won't Allow Social Media To Hurt India's Election Process, Says Govt.

August 27, 2018 13:04
Won't Allow Social Media To Hurt India's Election Process, Says Govt.

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Won't Allow Social Media To Hurt India's Election Process, Says Govt.:- The Union Information Technology (IT) minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said India will make attempts to defend its citizens from influence campaigns on social media that could undermine the election process.

Prasad told a gathering of ministers from G-20 (Group of Twenty) nations, the government said on Sunday.

"India had taken a serious note of reported misuse of social media platform data," a statement from the IT ministry quoted Prasad as saying at the G-20 Digital Economy Ministerial meeting in Salata, Argentina. "Such platforms will never be allowed to abuse our election process for extraneous means."

The comments come amid concern that data of users on web services such as Facebook and Twitter can be mined and ill-used in order to influence poll outcomes, a concern stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The minister likewise met Instant messaging application WhatsApp's global head earlier this week to convey the concerns over the spread of fake news in the country.

In March, Cambridge Analytica was found to have misused a partnership with Facebook to glean user data in order to create psychological and political profiles that could then lead to targeted influence campaigns. The company is believed to have used such tactics in 2016 for the Brexit vote and the United States presidential elections.

Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said after the scandal that the platform was changing the way it shared data with third-party applications and apologised for the "breach of trust".

Data of Indian users was also believed to have been harvested, and Prasad told Parliament last month that the Central Bureau of Investigations will investigate if any information relating to Indian voters was illegally obtained or misused.

Prasad also told the G20 meeting, which included his counterparts from 18 others countries and the European Union, that India was taking all possible steps to make the cyberspace safe. The meeting was held on August 23 and 24.

In his speech, the minister spoke in connection with a raging debate on privacy, saying "privacy cannot prohibit innovation nor can privacy become the shield for the corrupt or terrorists. We need data to improve business but the data must be anonymous, objective, and taken with consent", according to the statement.

While it was unclear from the government release if Prasad was referring to anything in particular, the comment comes against the backdrop of the opposition to the Aadhaar programme that has been challenged in the top court for being a threat to Indians' right to privacy.

Prasad said the Supreme Court too had elaborated these aspects while upholding the right to privacy, and hence a "fine balance needs to be struck between data availability, innovation, anonymity, and privacy".

India’s digital infrastructure includes 1.21 billion mobile phones, of which 450 million are smartphones; nearly 500 million internet subscriber, and optical fibre connectivity to 250,000 village clusters, Prasad said in his speech, giving the leaders a sense of India's digital infrastructure scale.

By Sowmya

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