Government will not tolerate Facebook interfering in 2019 elections: Ravi Shankar Prasad

The BJP on Wednesday warned social media outfits such as Facebook of strong action if they tried to influence the electoral process in 2019 through undesirable means.

IT and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters that while the government fully backed freedom of the press and speech and exchange of ideas on social media, it would not tolerate attempts to influence the electoral process through underhand means and take strong action to curb such attempts.

Facebook is facing problems in the US where the Federal Trade Commission is probing whether it violated a 2011 decree by handing out data of millions of its users to a political consultancy.

There are allegations that Cambridge Analytica, the consultancy, had used data mined from Facebook for research in the 2016 Presidential election campaign and on behalf of Donald Trump.

Similarly in the UK it work on the Leave EU-campaign for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union.Its's role and effect on campaigns has been controversial and is the subject of ongoing criminal investigations in the US and the UK.

The minister also took on the Congress, which has hired Cambridge Analytica for its 2019 election campaign, he alleged. “My question to Congress party is whether to win elections, it will depend on data manipulation and theft of data,” he said. “What is the role of Cambridge Analytica in social media profile of Rahul Gandhi?”

But a Congress spokesperson denied that the party had hired Cambridge Analytica. According to him, Cambridge Analytica worked with right-wing parties, not liberals. “Their website itself says they work with BJP,” he said.