As India gets ready for next year’s general elections, the panicked government of Narendra Modi seems to have learned nothing from the global Cambridge Analytica scandal in which politicians throughout the world used the services of a nefarious organisation to manipulate the minds of voters using sophisticated online thought control techniques which relied on the use of stolen user data.
The scandal has resulted in the shuddering of Cambridge Analaytica and wide sweeping governmental inquiries into the nefarious conduct of the company, including in the United States Congress. But in an arrogant move which disregards the global trend of individuals demanding more online privacy amid concerns of widespread so-called “data mining” from firms like Cambridge Analaytica, the Indian government has tendered an open bid for the services of a software company that would be required to perform services similar to that which Cambridge Analytica performed for the likes of Donald Trump and the controversial Brexit campaign in the UK.
According to the official document,
“The tool should have the capability to crawl the World Wide Web and social media to monitor and analyze various trends emerging as well as to gauge the sentiments amongst netizens. The tool should be comprehensive with the capability to generate reports and do customizations as per the requirements of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting”.
Sputnik further reports that the software being sought by the Modi government will be used to scan private emails as well as multi-lingual/international social media:
“The software should be able to power the “New Media Command Room” which should monitor Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Internet forums and even email in order to analyze sentiments, disseminate information on behalf of the government and inject news and social media posts with a “positive slant for India,” the tender document further reads.
The Indian government aims to scrutinize conversations in languages like English, Chinese, German, French, and Arabic in addition to Indian languages like Hindi, Urdu, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi and Tamil”.
The fact that the Indian government has so brazenly tendered a bid for a software company to spy on Indian voters and potentially censor, distort and manipulate international reportage of domestic elections strikes not just of an arrogant slide into totalitarianism, but is symptomatic of a government that is out of touch with world wide trends that have seen such methods condemned as an affront to democracy, a normal political process and the privacy of citizens’ online activities.
This push is further symptomatic of the paranoia and irrational thinking that has come to dominate a Modi government that consistently points the finger of blame at foreign governments and media outlets rather than addressing the fundamental issues of the decay of socio-economic cohesion which have rapidly unravelled during the extremist rule of Modi’s BJP government.
This move should be condemned by all responsible Indian opposition parties as a flagrant abuse of government power and a clear sign that the BJP is attempting to use the tools of state to manipulate public upon ahead of crucial elections.
While others have expressed shame, regret and contrition at their involvement with data-minding companies whose main source of revenue is through intentional voter manipulation, Modi continues to progress down a dark path of electoral subversion, scapegoating of foreign media and a dictatorial desire to censor all legitimate forms of opposition to his government.