Congress has hired Cambridge Analytica for 2019 polls, BJP alleges
Information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that Congress has roped in Cambridge Analytica (CA), UK-based data analytics firm, for strategizing for the 2019 parliamentary elections. CA is accused of using private data from Facebook profiles to identify/influence voter-behavior during Donald Trump's US presidential campaign. Prasad warned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that his company won't be spared if theft of Indians' data is discovered.
What is the scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica ?
Cambridge Analytica is in the eye of storm after its CEO Alexander Nix in a sting operation boasted about using sex workers, bribes and misinformation to help political candidates win votes. This information also raised doubts about whether the London-based elections consultancy used personal information from Facebook for influencing the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit vote.
Now, what are BJP's allegations?
Now, Prasad reportedly referred to media reports which claimed that hiring CA was Congress's "Brahmastra" for running their 2019 election campaign. Thus, he posed three questions to Congress: "Will Congress depend on data manipulation and theft to woo voters? Does Congress endorse methods used by CA, namely sex, sleaze and fake news? What is CA's role in Rahul Gandhi's social media profile?"
How did Congress react?
Congress categorically denied this allegation. Divya Spandana, the Congress's social media cell in-charge tweeted, "News about Congress engaged/engaging with CA is absolutely false." Incidentally, BJP's allegations come hours after Congress leader Manish Tewari urged EC to check which Indian political parties were using CA's services.
Meanwhile, Prasad also warned social media platforms with strong action
Apart from Congress, Prasad warned social media platforms like Facebook of consequences if any attempt was made to influence India's elections through undesirable means. He declared the government fully supports "freedom of press, speech and expression" and "exchange of ideas" on social media. But, it is also committed to free and fair elections. He bellowed, "If need be, strong action will be taken."
Separately, what does this incident imply?
Interestingly, media reports suggested that CA, with Indian partner Oveleno Business Intelligence (OBI), had spoken to both Congress and BJP for a possible collaboration. CA is allegedly wooing South Asian politicians like former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa and present Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina for possible re-election campaigns. By calling out Congress for being connected to CA, BJP may have scored a political point.