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Congress seeks probe into Israeli firm’s ‘use’ in elections in India

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Thursday demanded a probe into the the alleged use of an Israeli team of contractors to interfere in Indian elections and asked the government to break its silence on the matter.

At a press conference here, Congress spokespersons Pawan Khera and Supriya Shrinate drew similarities between “Team Jorge”, the Israeli team of contractors, and the IT cell of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in spreading misinformation and “fake news” in order to influence the country’s electoral process.

They also alleged that the data of Indians is being compromised.

“Team Jorge”, which is feared to have interfered with more than 30 elections around the world, has been linked with a software to operate fake social media campaigns across countries, including India, a report said on Wednesday.

“We have seen a pattern in India. We want the government to break its silence and say what has been its contribution in saving democracy in the country,” Shrinate said, asserting that it is the Centre’s job to give a reply when an international agency has made out such a serious allegation.

“This impacts India’s electoral process directly and there should be a probe,” she said.

“If the government is not doing anything on this, it means it is seeking help to interfere in the country’s democracy and elections. The data of Indians is being compromised by handing it over to a foreign firm,” the Congress’s social media department head alleged.

Shrinate said this is not the first time that allegations of data theft have been levelled against the Narendra Modi government.

“One of the serious charges that this government faces is data theft and data manipulation to actually tamper with the electoral process. You saw what happened in Karnataka. This government is known to play with big data to its advantage. This is nothing but a murder of democracy,” she alleged.

Shrinate also accused the BJP’s IT cell of often indulging in such activities by “militarising or weaponising” rumours by spreading those further and said this is leading to bad results in the society and hence, questions will be asked.

Khera alleged that India’s democracy is being “hijacked” by the country’s ruling party.

“An Israeli agency’s help is being taken to influence the country’s democracy. Sitting in India, they are conspiring against India’s democracy along with other countries,” he said.

Khera also wondered if the BJP used a network of foreign hackers to interfere in Indian elections and recalled that there were allegations of using Cambridge Analytica (CA) and then Pegasus by the Modi government to meddle in the country’s political system by spreading misinformation on digital media.

“Is there a link between Post Card News and Team Jorge — a team of Israeli contractors who claim to have manipulated more than 30 elections around the world using hacking, sabotage and automated disinformation on social media?” he asked.

“The pattern of disinformation and fake news campaigns being adopted by the Israelis is mirrored by the ruling BJP very distinctly,” the Congress leader alleged, adding that an innocuous social media account puts out “disinformation”, which is amplified by the “right-wing ecosystem”, including BJP office-bearers, MPs, MLAs and ministers.

“Is it not a fact that the BJP used fake news to repeatedly target the Bharat Jodo Yatra in the last four-five months and was always caught? “Will the Modi government investigate the latest scandal that has hit the Indian political spectrum, involving yet again foreign contractors indulging in sophisticated hacking, sabotage and automated disinformation on social media?” he asked.

In an international investigation carried by a group of journalists, including those from “The Guardian” newspaper in the United Kingdom, the so-called “Team Jorge” unit has been linked with allegedly offering a sophisticated software package named Advanced Impact Media Solutions (AIMS) to its commercial clients as one of its key services.

Source: Press Trust of India


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