Bloomberg News

India Plans to Use Facebook to Counter Internet-Savvy Opponents

December 15, 2011

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- India’s government plans to use social-media sites such as those run by Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to counter opposition from Internet-savvy, anti- corruption groups.

“We should be able to use this space,” Minister of Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal said today. “This is about how social media can empower the government.”

India held a meeting today with representatives from Facebook, Google Inc., lawyers and legal experts to discuss ways to increase the government’s presence on the Internet, said Pavan Duggal, a Supreme Court lawyer who attended the meeting. Some of India’s 38 million Facebook users have used the site to support an anti-corruption movement, led by Anna Hazare.

“We saw how fast governments unraveled as messages of malcontent were amplified on these social-networking sites in the Middle East,” said Jagannadham Thunuguntla, chief strategist at SMC Wealth Management Services Ltd. in New Delhi. “The situation is not as dire here, but the government is certainly taking precautions with the Anna Hazare movement.”

The government will issue guidelines within a month on how its officials can use social media, said R. Chandrasekhar, secretary at the Department of Information Technology.

Policy Drift

Singh’s government has been assailed by allegations of graft and policy drift for more than a year after former Cabinet minister Andimuthu Raja, a lawmaker and company executives were charged with conspiring in 2008 to sell permits to run mobile- phone services at below-market rates. Sibal succeeded Raja.

The last four sessions of parliament have been disrupted by opposition parties criticizing the administration for corruption and inflation above 9 percent. Hazare, 73, is leading the campaign against corruption and has demanded the government enact a law to form a graft-fighting agency called Lokpal.

India fell four places in a global ranking of corruption perception to a position below Liberia and Colombia. The world’s second-most populous nation was 95th of 183 countries in the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index published this month by Berlin-based Transparency International. The lower the ranking, the more corrupt a nation is perceived to be.

India had about 89 million people using the Web at the end of last year, compared with more than 450 million in China, the world’s largest Internet market, according to the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva.

--With assistance from Bibhudatta Pradhan and Santosh Kumar in New Delhi. Editors: Abhay Singh, Subramaniam Sharma

To contact the reporters on this story: Kartikay Mehrotra in New Delhi at; Ketaki Gokhale in Mumbai at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sam Nagarajan at

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