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Status update? Election Commission to rethink working with Facebook, says Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat

The CEC said the Constitutional body is taking the possible data breaches and their misuse very seriously.

Status update? Election Commission to rethink working with Facebook, says Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat

NEW DELHI: The Election Commission of India will engage in a serious rethink of its voter awareness campaigns on Facebook, Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat has said. This may come up for discussion as early as Friday evening, at a meeting of the top officials of the EC, he said.

The CEC's statements on the relationship with Facebook came in an interview to The Indian Express. He said the EC is concerned over revelation of the Facebook data breach and the use of this data by outfits like Cambridge Analytica to influence elections in other countries.

"Something which can affect the election arena in an adverse manner, like public opinion being moulded. this should concern us and we will take a view on this," Express quoted him saying. "We will be considering this issue in its entire dimension in the Commission meeting," he added.

So far, the EC has collaborated actively with the social media giant to run its voter awareness programmes. The platform was viewed as a critical instrument in reaching out to young voters to register and to come out and exercise their vote.

The EC's use of social media is not confined to the head office alone. It officials in each state - the Chief Electoral Officers - have over the past decade all been encouraged to conduct outreach programmes and post news on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

On Wednesday, Union IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad warned the social media giant against 'data theft'. He said the government would treat the possible use of such data to influence elections in India as a matter of national security. He also warned Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg that the Indian government would summon him to India if found necessary. 

The Election Commission's review of its truck with Facebook comes at a difficult moment for the social media behemoth. It has bene under constant attack over the past year, especially for the way it had been used to influence US voters in the run-up to the 2016 elections, in which Donald Trump emerged victorious. Manipulations on Facebook have also been blamed for the outcome of the Brexit vote in the UK.