Fake news row: Social media won't be allowed to abuse polls, says Prasad

Ravi Shankar Prasad. Photo: PTI
At a time when the government is engaged in a row with WhatsApp over tracing of fake messages, Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said spread of radical thought through digital means should be addressed by better regulations as well as international cooperation.

Prasad, speaking at the plenary of the G20 Digital Economy Ministerial meeting in Salata, Argentina, on August 23-24, also said that India has taken serious note of reported data misuse of social media platforms and such tools would never be allowed to abuse the election process for extraneous means. 

“Use of the cyber medium to spread radical thought is a challenge that needs to be addressed both domestically by better regulations as well as international cooperation,” he said in a statement.

The minister added that the purity of the democratic process should never be compromised and India would take all required steps to deter and punish those who seek to vitiate this process.

India’s views received support from several delegations, including host Argentina, Germany and the EU. Several other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Indonesia and Japan expressed a keen desire to work with India in a range of IT and cyber-related fields. 

The issue of abuse of social media platforms has been under scanner over the last few months in India. The government has resolved to take action to prevent any platform misuse. In fact, the CBI has recently initiated a preliminary enquiry against British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica for alleged illegal personal data harvesting of Indians from Facebook.

The minister spoke on India’s concerns about data protection and individual privacy and informed the meeting that India had already put in place stringent measures backed by laws. He said that 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,” he added.

Prasad said that the borderless cyber world creates almost limitless opportunities of trade, commerce and knowledge sharing but to fully reap the benefits of digital transformation for the global economy, a safe and secure cyberspace was required. “Nefarious use of internet is a reality that needs to be met by concerted action by all,” he added.
Prasad also said that a part of revenue generated by digital platforms needs to be reinvested in host markets. Assuring that India is taking all possible steps to make the cyberspace safe, he warned that instances of cybercrime will be dealt with severely by the government.

Prasad said India’s digital infrastructure is powered by 1.21 billion mobile phones (including 450 million smartphones), nearly 500 million internet subscribers and broadband availability. 

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