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Parliamentary Panel on Home Affairs Likely to Discuss 'Tek Fog' Issue at Next Meeting

The chairman of the committee, Congress leader Anand Sharma, has taken serious note of TMC MP Derek O'Brien's letter to him.

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New Delhi: The parliamentary standing committee for home affairs is likely to take up the issue of the ‘Tek Fog’ app in the committee’s next meeting.

While the meeting is yet to be scheduled because of COVID-19-related restrictions, The Wire has learnt that the chairman of the committee, Congress leader Anand Sharma, has taken serious note of TMC MP Derek O’Brien’s letter to him.

On January 6, O’Brien had written to Sharma asking for a discussion on the secret app called “Tek Fog”, saying the matter “has serious ramifications and could jeopardise national security”.

This came a day after The Wire, after two years of investigation, revealed with the help of sources the existence of a secret app ‘Tek Fog’, used by political operatives affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party to artificially inflate the popularity of the party, harass its critics and manipulate public perceptions at scale across major social media platforms.

Also read: Explainer: Here’s What the Tek Fog App Can Do, and Why You Should Care

O’Brien’s letter said, “This application is capable of penetrating encrypted messaging platforms and secure social media conversations, in order to heavily manipulate and exploit narratives on said platforms.”

The MP, who is a member of the committee, said that the existence and usage of manipulative technologies like Tek Fog pose a severe danger to national and citizens’ security and are a violation of the fundamental rights to privacy and free speech. “It is an exploitation of public discourse, and a defilement of the country’s democracy and security,” he said.

The Wire‘s investigation found that the app can hijack Twitter hashtags, take over ‘inactive’ WhatsApp accounts, and direct the online harassment of journalists critical of the BJP. Another important functionality present in the app screens was the ability for app operatives to delete or remap all existing accounts at a moment’s notice. This feature theoretically allows them to destroy all incriminating evidence of their past activity.