Social media platforms are welcome to do business in India, which celebrates freedom of ideas, but New Delhi will not tolerate any abuse of data to influence elections nor allow data imperialism, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Monday.
The comments come at a time when the social media platforms have come under government scrutiny over privacy concerns and potential for their misuse ahead of general elections slated to be held by May.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has summoned Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram officials on March 6, even as it held a three-and-a half-hour long meeting with Global Vice President of Public Policy for Twitter on Monday on the issue of safeguarding citizen rights on social/online news media platforms.
Refusing to be drawn into a discussion on parliamentary panel’s ongoing deliberations with social media companies, Prasad said, “All social media platforms are welcome to do business in India because India offers a big, digital and commercial opportunity…India appreciates, acknowledges and respects freedom of ideas on social media but any abuse of data of Indians to influence elections will not be accepted.” Prasad was speaking at Rising India Summit.
The minister noted that social media platform like Facebook and Twitter have large presence in India, and asserted that the government had been “tough” on companies like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica in specific instances in the past.
“Any kind of data imperialism will not be acceptable…We believe in equality…If you go like that, a proper norm will come. Election Commission is equally aware of that…and in no manner whatsoever the data of Indians will be allowed to be abused to influence elections,” he said.
On the issue of draft Data Protection Bill, the minister said that most of the consultations, including those with state governments and other ministries, were complete and now the “nuts and bolts” have to be tightened before it is taken to the Cabinet. “The whole world is awaiting India’s data protection law,” Prasad said.
The minister exuded confidence that the Modi government will return to power as “aspirational India” wants a leader who can take decisions.
Hitting out at the opposition alliance against the BJP, the minister said, “If I don’t talk about ‘milawat’ part you have a combination which is leaderless, ruderless and programme less…and India on the rising mood …is a mismatch… people of India know who to vote for in municipality, gram panchayat, state and who to vote to run India”.