TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien has written to the chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs seeking a meeting of the panel to discuss the issue of “hijacking and manipulating” social media trends using ‘Tek Fog’ app which he said is a “threat” to national security and privacy of citizens. This is the second letter the TMC MP has written to Congress leader and panel head Anand Sharma for a meeting.
A report on news portal ‘The Wire’ had alleged that people associated with the ruling BJP’s IT cell were purportedly using the app to take control of inactive WhatsApp accounts, send messages to frequently contacted numbers, and hijack trending topics on social media platforms.
In his letter on Monday, O’Brien said that the expos shows that the Tek Fog app gives cyber troops the ability to hijack WhatsApp accounts of private citizens by sending them spyware disguised as a media file. It then remotely accesses inactive accounts in their contact lists and uses the inactive number to send targeted messages to all their contacts.
“All of the hijacked number’s contacts are synced to a database on cloud, ripe for picking as future targets of disinformation and harassment… It is also pointed out that this hacking technique was formerly used by the Pegasus spyware, before the NSO Group developed an even more sophisticated zero-click hijacking method,” he said.
He said that the application can automate the sending of WhatsApp messages across networks of groups, flooding the social media space with misinformation and fake news, misleading individual citizens, and manipulating political narratives.
“Use of such manipulative technology is a danger to national security and democratic rights of free speech and unfettered media, and a threat to individual citizens’ privacy and safety. I, therefore, request you to call a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs at the earliest, to discuss these developments,” said O’Brien who is also the leader of the TMC’s Parliamentary Party in Rajya Sabha and a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.