Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has inadvertently exposed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s scandal of influencing voters through Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI)—an Indian affiliate of Cambridge Analytica firm. Mere a tweet by Manish Tewari seeking enquiry by the Election Commission on the claim by Cambridge Analytics about giving services during elections and campaigns in India compelled BJP minister to call a press conference to save and clear themselves of the charges and rather accused that Congress had links with Cambridge Analytica.
Congress media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala Surjewala said, “Desperate times call for desperate press conferences. BJP’s factory of fake news has produced another fake news today. Such baseless allegations show the character of the party, Indian National Congress or the Congress President has never used or never hired the services of a company called Cambridge Analytica.”
British data analytics and election strategy firm Cambridge Analytica (CA), which is under a scanner in the UK and the US for using Facebook to influence voters in the US presidential election and the vote on Brexit in UK, is also involved in a scandal involving the 2010 Bihar Assembly election and claimed its client “achieved a landslide victory.
Controversial firm Cambridge Analytica used to conduct psychological war by harvesting millions of Facebook profiles without authorization and then further used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence voters at the ballot box.
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been allegedly accused of compiling user data to target American voters during the presidential election for US President Donald Trump. In the same manner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi allegedly used the same psychological warfare tool in 2010 and in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
After Information Technology and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has alleged that Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party had links with Cambridge Analytica, Congress media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala countered the Minister saying, “Fake Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is presenting fake agenda. The truth is contrary to this. The BJP and JDU used Cambridge Analytica. The BJP hired the Indian business partner of Cambridge Analytica — OBI during Delhi Assembly election and used its services. Apart from this, the firm also involved in the party’s Mission 272+ (BJP’s slogan for 2014 general election) as an additional support in Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Delhi”, Surjewala added.
Surejewala stated that information available on the website of Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI)—an Indian affiliate of CA’s parent company Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) firm also furnished a constituency-wise database to BJP candidates for state and national elections.
The firm used to collect data about people who are on Facebook through an app and target voters with personalised political advertisements, in the same manner as television, radio and print.
Prasad even issued a sharp warning to the social media giant, saying the government would take ‘stringent action”, including “summoning” its CEO Mark Zuckerberg to India, in case of any data theft of Indians.
Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted mistakes and outlined steps to protect user data in light of a privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm. As Cambridge Analytica is accused of improperly using the data on behalf of political clients. He said that Facebook has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ data and if it fails, “we don’t deserve to serve you.”
As both BJP and the Congress accuse each other of data theft and of having used Cambridge Analytica’s services to swing elections in the country.
Ravi Shankar Prasad made a bizarre statement when he said that Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter followers had risen recently and wondered if Cambridge Analytica was responsible for this “fake popularity”.
Prasad became so desperate that he made out of the context statement as Cambridge Analytica does not work for Twitter and there is also a report viral on online media about Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having 60% fake twitter followers. So, by making these charges what he is trying to say?
But the most significant aspect in this entire episode is how India is going to fix the loopholes so that no political party is able to covertly or overtly able to influence the electoral process for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.