India warns Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

Thursday 22nd March 2018 07:47 EDT

In the backdrop of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Indian IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad warned social media including Facebook of “stringent action” if any attempt was made by them to influence the country's electoral process. He said, “Let me make it very, very clear. We fully support freedom of press, speech and expression. We fully support free exchange of ideas on social media. But any attempt, covert or overt, by social media, including Facebook, of trying to influence India's electoral process through undesirable means will neither be appreciated nor be tolerated.” Prasad added, “If need be, stringent action will be taken.”

“Mr Mark Zuckerberg, you better note the observation of the IT Minister of India. We welcome the FB profile in India, but if any data theft of Indians is done through the collusion of FB system, it shall not be tolerated. We have got stringent power in the IT Act, we shall use it, including summoning you in India,” Prasad warned. This is not the the first time Indian policymakers faced off with Facebook. Back in 2016, TRAI had issued regulations on discriminatory pricing over internet access that had led to the ban of platforms like Facebook's Free Basics. When asked if the government would initiate a probe on data use by Facebook, Prasad said India had a regulator in the form of TRAI and in case of any specific complaints, the same would be taken under a structured investigation. “We have got very robust mechanism available, we will look into it. But today, this very stern observation I gave that let my warning be heard across the Atlantic far away in California.”

Prasad cautioned the social media giant of repercussions under the IT Act in case any data breach came to light. The Cambridge Analytica, a London-based data consultancy firm allegedly harvested personal data of Facebook users, to unfairly influence election results. Amid the controversy, Zuckerberg has vowed to “step up” to fix problems surrounding data privacy, as it fights a snowballing scandal over the hijacking of personal data from millions of its users.

He said, “We have a responsibility to do this, not only for the 2018 midterms in the US, which are going to be a huge deal this year and that's just a huge focus for us, but there's a big election in India this year, there's a big election in Brazil, there are big elections around the world, and you can bet that we are really committed to doing everything that we need to make sure that the integrity of those elections on Facebook is secured.”

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