March 21, 2018 / 10:24 AM / a month ago

India warns against social media data misuse ahead of elections

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s information technology minister on Wednesday warned against any abuse of social media in elections, following reports that a British consultancy improperly accessed information on millions of Facebook users to target U.S. voters.

FILE PHOTO: A figurine is seen in front of the Facebook logo in this illustration taken, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

India is due to hold a national election in 2019 and several states will elect new assemblies this year and next.

“Abuse of social media including Facebook cannot be allowed to impact the fairness of elections,” Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters.

“In the wake of recent data theft from Facebook, let my stern warning be heard across the Atlantic, far away in California. Any covert or overt attempt to misuse social media including Facebook to influence India’s electoral process through undesirable means will neither be tolerated, nor be permitted.”

Facebook said Prasad had raised several important questions and the company appreciates his attention to this matter.

“We will continue to engage with the government on this matter. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect peoples’ information and will take whatever steps are required that this happens,” the company said in a statement.

British consultancy Cambridge Analytica has denied media accusations that it improperly accessed millions of Facebook users’ information and said it deleted the data after learning that it did not adhere to data protection rules.

Facebook has said it has tightened its controls on such practices since it discovered the alleged abuses by Cambridge Analytica in 2015.

Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie

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