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Pranab Mukherjee targeted by Facebook to influence data laws: Report

The London-based Observer and Computer Weekly reported on Saturday that former chancellor George Osborne and former Ireland prime minister Enda Kenny were among those identified to lobby on Facebook’s behalf to secure influence.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2019 23:51 IST
President Pranab Mukherjee teaching students at a government school on Teacher's Day eve in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI photo)(PTI Photo)

Former President Pranab Mukherjee was among leaders in several countries targeted by social media giant Facebook in 2013 to help influence and secure easier data privacy laws, promising investment and incentives, a new leak of internal documents of the firm has revealed.

The London-based Observer and Computer Weekly reported on Saturday that former chancellor George Osborne and former Ireland prime minister Enda Kenny were among those identified to lobby on Facebook’s behalf to secure influence.

The report called it a “secretive global operation” that targeted hundreds of legislators and regulators in the US, Canada, India, Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia and all 28 members of the European Union, including the United Kingdom. The report did not elaborate on whether the firm reached out to all the leaders. “As well as Kenny, dozens of other politicians, US senators and European commissioners are mentioned by name, including then Indian president Pranab Mukherjee, Michel Barnier, now the EU’s Brexit negotiator, and Osborne”, the report says.

A senior official associated with Mukherjee’s office, while speaking on condition of anonymity, ruled out the possibility that he would influence policy decisions of the government as President. Mukherjee could not be immediately reached for a comment on the report.

The report adds that the documents appear to emanate from a court case against Facebook by the app developer Six4Three in California. A spokesperson for Facebook said the documents were still under seal in a Californian court and it could not respond to them in any detail. “Like the other documents that were cherrypicked and released in violation of a court order last year, these by design tell one side of a story and omit important context.” The Computer weekly reported that Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg invited one of Osborne’s children to Facebook’s office in 2013 during a lobbying programme to influence European data protection legislation. She reportedly asked Osborne to be “even more active and vocal” in his concerns about European data protection legislation, and to “really help shape the proposals”, during a lobbying campaign to influence EU policy.

“Facebook’s highly confidential memo revealed that in the UK, cross-party political think tank Demos was planning research into “how social media can win an election for you”, with the support of Facebook’s public policy team”, the weekly added.

First Published: Mar 02, 2019 23:08 IST