Social media platforms must use technology to stop the spread of fake news, and must appoint “grievance officers” for consumer complaints, Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. “All social media platforms must ensure that any kind of fake news or abusive things cannot be circulated and recirculated to create crimes in India…. The origin of those news should also be technologically answered,” Prasad said while replying during Question Hour.
“I have conveyed to them (companies)…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,” he added. Prasad’s remarks come hard on the heels of several cases of lynching, reported from across the country, ostensibly sparked by rumours on social media platforms such as WhatsApp.
Regarding data protection, Prasad said he will write to all chief ministers, and the department’s secretary will write to all chief secretaries of states, inviting comments on the proposed data protection law, submitted by the Justice Srikrishna commission last week.
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He also said that the government will not allow these digital companies to exploit data to influence elections in India. “Any foreign entity like Facebook or Cambridge Analytica cannot abuse the data of Indians to influence elections. India’s elections are very transparent and sanctified,” he said.
Prasad said while Facebook has apologised to the government and stated that data was pilfered by other agencies, Cambridge Analytica gave only one reply and did not follow up the other notice. “Because of these diversions, and since the reply was not adequately convincing, I have referred the matter to the CBI,” he said.
The minister said Facebook stated that about 5.62 lakh Indians may have been potentially affected in the Cambridge Analytica case. “Cambridge Analytica responded (stating 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.