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The Hindu Analysis Free PDF Download

Date: 17 February 2020


In political micro-targeting, the vulnerable Indian voter

  • Cambridge Analytica a data mining and analytics firm
  • The episode highlighted the need for regulating social media platforms by way of a comprehensive data protection law which takes issues such as political micro-targeting seriously.
  • With the recently introduced draft of the data protection law, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, the debate has again resurfaced.
  • In the Internet age, any data protection law must be alive to the potential impact of social media companies in shaping public opinion.
  • The current draft empowers the Central government to notify social media intermediaries as significant data fiduciaries if their user base crosses a certain threshold and whose actions are likely to have an impact on electoral democracy.
  • This provision merits serious discussion to ensure that digital tools are used for enhancing democracy through citizen engagement, and not for harvesting personal data for voter targeting.

World of political advertising

  • Earlier, the idea was to capture mass issues.
  • But in the present day and age, the focus of the campaign is the individual.
  • Such profiling has raised huge concerns of data privacy for individuals and has become a burning issue for political debate.
  • Forward-thinking regulatory framework
    1. Supervisory mechanisms
    2. Effective law enforcement tools
  • Some serious concerns
  1. kind of data that is being collected, the manner in which voters are being profiled
  2. how transparent the process of profiling and targeting is
  3. what the nature of functioning of organisations engaged in this business is
  4. how neutral globally present intermediaries such as Google and Facebook are
  • Over the years, political advisory and advertising firms have devised sophisticated tools to gather voter data and made proper campaign products out of it.
  • The informational autonomy of the voter is under serious threat because the entire business of collecting personal data continues to remain unregulated and is also proprietary in nature.
  • Profiling the potential voter has become a thriving industry.
  • The electoral process in India is becoming increasingly advanced in terms of use of data.

Perverse zeal

  • The detention of Dr. Kafeel Khan under the National Security Act (NSA), within days of his being granted bail.
  • Although he was granted bail, he was not immediately released.
  • His arrest, at Mumbai airport, was in connection with an allegedly inflammatory speech he had made on the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act at Aligarh Muslim University in December 2019.
  • The Special Task Force of the U.P. police accused him of promoting enmity through his speech.
  • The paediatrician from Gorakhpur was sought to be blamed when oxygen shortage in the BRD Medical College Hospital led to nearly 60 children dying in 2017.
  • After he had spent months in jail, an internal inquiry absolved him of the charges of negligence and corruption.
  • However, the State government said he had not been given a clean chit.
  • Govt could have filed a charge sheet and let the court decide if it attracted Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • The resort to preventive detention as soon as a person is granted bail, with the perverse purpose of continuing his imprisonment, is not uncommon in the country, but the practice is condemnable.
  • It is regrettable that the police and the bureaucracy appear to act in wanton disregard for basic rights.
  • Taking the cue from growing opinion, most recently articulated by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud of the Supreme Court, that protest and criticism directed at government policy do not amount to being anti-national, officials should pause before they are seen as enablers of the excesses of an authoritarian dispensation.

Delhi at the centre

  • Arvind Kejriwal took oath as Chief Minister of Delhi for a third time in six years.
  • His approach during his five-year tenure and focused on areas within his control to improve.
  • There cannot be a stronger, clearer message to the BJP and AAP from the people.
  • In its 10-point “Kejriwal Ka Guarantee Card”, the party promised Delhiites over 11,000 public buses and 500 km of Delhi Metro network.
  • The Chief Minister will also need to focus on working with his counterparts in neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to deal with the city’s problems.

China, the media and truth-telling in a crisis

  • How the media in China is covering the novel coronavirus outbreak.
  • As of February 16 has infected more than 68,500 people and claimed 1,665 lives on the mainland.
  • Mr. Xi’s era has seen a relentless tightening of controls over the media.
  • As a doctor at the Wuhan Union Hospital told Caixin, clinics were being flooded since late December with as many as 900 patients a day showing pneumonia-like symptoms.
  • On December 30, eight doctors sent warnings on chat groups about the outbreak.
  • Among the whistle-blower doctors was Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist. The eight were hauled up by police for “spreading rumours” and forced to sign statements withdrawing their claims.
  • Moreover, a number of doctors and medical workers began falling ill, although hospitals barred doctors from disclosing this.
  • We know these facts only thanks to the brave Chinese journalists who have been reporting relentlessly from Wuhan’s ground zero.
  • The current crisis is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Party in the Xi era.
  • The death of the whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang on February 7, after he had contracted the coronavirus, unleashed public rage on Chinese social media that was unprecedented on many levels.
  • In the speech, Mr. Xi said he had as early as January 7 issued orders to deal with the crisis, a rare instance of him taking the step of actually explaining the Party’s actions to the public.
  • When much of the media is state-controlled and there are few independent outlets mediating China’s rapidly expanding engagement with the world, scepticism will likely abound overseas, even if China ironically has, at least since January 20, been far more transparent in handling the outbreak than it was during SARS 17-18 years ago.
  • To that end, a petition put forward by academics from the elite Tsinghua University in Beijing, Mr. Xi’s alma mater, has now called to make February 7, the day of Dr. Li’s passing, a national day for freedom of speech.

Permit Dissent

  • As the chief guest of the 10th convocation of the Gujarat National Law University on Saturday, Justice DY Chandrachud of the Supreme Court had notable advice for the students:
  • “It is important to stand up and be dissenters. It is only through your power of expressing views and courage of stating contrary positions that you will make others stop and think.”
  • The right to dissent is at the very heart of a dialogue-based democratic society.
  • Over the weekend disturbing video footage has also come to light, where police can be seen entering Jamia Millia Islamia’s library and lathicharging students who were just studying there.
  • Plurality of opinion is furthermore the basis of all growth – political, economic, cultural and social.
  • Only asking questions and challenging the status quo lead to change and progress.
  • So respect for diversity and freedom of expression is not only the essence of Indian democracy, it is also the guarantor of a better future.

Missing In Action

  • Telecom players: adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues of nearly Rs 92,000 crore
  • Government has only itself to blame for angering a Supreme Court.
  • Airtel has promised to deposit a tranche of Rs 10,000 crore by February 20 while deep in the red Vodafone Idea has made it clear it needs relief on the payment schedule.
  • India’s telecom story has veered off course, reduced from ten operators at its peak to four survivors.
  • To escape astronomically high licence fees, telcos in 1999 agreed to share a portion of their revenues as licence fees and spectrum usage charges with government but the AGR regime adopted by government in 2003 implied that gross revenues would also include non-telecom revenues.
  • Government can approach SC with a plan to stagger payments, foregoing interest and penalties.
  • But strangely, it has been content to remain a silent spectator in its own cause.
  • Besides telecom sector stagnation, Vodafone Idea’s demise could scare away foreign investors. Even lenders will take a hit.


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