Information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani said on Thursday her ministry will soon announce a policy for digital broadcasts and digital news in addition to existing policies governing broadcast and print media. Irani said the real challenge for the government was to create a “proactive policy which upholds the right to free speech, but at the same time doesn’t give anyone the right to instigate a riot.” “That is where the balance has to be found,” Irani said.
Referring to the allegations made by data firm Cambridge Analytica’s employee, that the company’s services are believed to have been hired by Congress, Irani said, “If you look at the Indian Penal Code, you’ll find certain sections talk about punishing people who try to create differences between classes, castes or communities, deliberately. But here, a political party wanted to analyse the castes of every voter to engineer a communicative strategy to instigate and influence. This is a deeper malaise.” Irani attempted to play down caste-based selection of candidates within her own party, and cited her own example to state she held an important public office even though she represented a micro minority. “I am not here because of my surname, but because of the work I have done,” she said.
Irani dismissed allegations that the NaMo mobile app sought to distribute consumers’ private information to third parties, and a disclaimer was issued only after the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light. Drawing parallels between apps that sought location details of end users, Irani said it was “childish” to say this added up to snooping.
Irani also skirted a question by Naina Lal Kidwai, the first woman president of FICCI, on why Parliament has been unable to pass the women’s reservation bill.