Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said social media platforms should themselves weed out circulation of fake news and the government will not tolerate data abuse by companies for influencing elections in India.
He said the government has ordered a CBI investigation into alleged misuse of data of Indian Facebook users by British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.
“Any foreign entity, Facebook or Cambridge Analytica, cannot abuse the data of Indians to influence elections of India. India’s elections are very transparent, sanctified,” Prasad said in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour.
The government has told social media platforms that fake news or abusive news cannot be circulated and re-circulated to “create crimes” in India, Prasad said, adding, “that will not be acceptable”.
“Therefore the origin of those news should also be technologically answered. I have conveyed to them in very clear observation that it does not need rocket science to identify lakhs of messages being circulated on a particular day, in a particular area of a particular state. You must have technological solutions,” Prasad said.
The minister’s comments came within days of rumours on social media platform Whatsapp triggering lynching incidents in the country.
Prasad said while Facebook has apologised to the Government of India and said data was pilfered by other agencies, Cambridge Analytica gave just one reply and did not follow up the other reply.
“Therefore, because of these diversions and since the reply was not adequately convincing, I have referred the matter to the CBI,” Prasad said.
The Minister said Facebook in its response has said about 5,62,000 Indians may have been potentially affected in the Cambridge Analytica case.
“However, Cambridge Analytica responded that they do not have any Facebook data on Indian citizens. To a second notice, Facebook informed that Cambridge Analytica had violated Facebook’s policy. Cambridge Analytica has not responded to the second notice,” he said.
He said the government has asked social media platforms to appoint a grievance officer in India before whom complaints can be made and comply with the requirements of Indian law.
“We respect privacy. But privacy cannot be used to shield terrorists and corrupt,” he added.