Congress demands action against Facebook India, writes to Zuckerberg

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on August 18, 2020

Congress said that reports of Facebook India favouring the ruling BJP consistently are of grave concern

Ravi Shankar Prasad says pages of BJP supporters too were removed

The Congress has asked Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to set up a high level inquiry into the operations of Facebook India leadership team and submit a report to the public within one or two months. Expressing apprehension and fear over Facebook’s “purported role” in manipulating India’s electoral democracy, Congress general secretary KC Venugopal said in a letter to Zuckerberg that reports of Facebook India favouring the ruling BJP consistently is of grave concern.

He said the Congress party has repeatedly raised the issue of bias with many executives of Facebook and WhatsApp but to no avail. He also cited investigative reports on the alleged nexus of some of Facebook India’s leadership team with the BJP. “Publish and make transparent all instances of hate speech posts since 2014 that were allowed on the platform. A Wall Street Journal article mentions hate speech of at least three other politicians that were wilfully permitted by Facebook India. On a closer perusal, you will find thousands of such insidious posts,” Venugopal said in the letter. He said until the completion of the internal investigation and submission of the report, “please consider to lead Facebook India operations by a new team so as to not influence the investigation.”

‘Question fake news’

Releasing Venugopal’s letter, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the Congress will not allow any manipulation of the country’s hard-earned democracy through bias, fake news and hate speech. “As exposed by the Wall Street Journal, Facebook’s involvement in peddling fake and hate news needs to be questioned by all Indians,” he added.

Congress spokesman Pawan Khera told reporters that with each passing day new revelations expose the “unholy nexus” between the BJP and Facebook. He alleged that Facebook executives such as its public policy chief in India Ankhi Das had connections with senior BJP leaders and MPs in the run up to the Lok Sabha election of 2014. He cited media reports and said leaked internal memos, chats, and email exchanges are evidence of the lobbying by key Facebook officials with the BJP ecosystem between 2012-14.

“No wonder the BJP is running shy of parliamentary scrutiny; no wonder why, if questions on Facebook’s professional integrity are raised, none other than (Law and IT Minister) Ravi Shankar Prasad himself comes to the rescue of Facebook; no wonder why, Prime Minister promotes Facebook by exhorting his MPs to get a minimum of 300,000 likes on their pages, and Facebook in turn ensures that hate speeches by leaders of the BJP are not removed despite the stated policy of Facebook in this regard,” Khera said.

BJP denies nexus

Prasad said on Tuesday that hundreds of pages of BJP supporters were also removed by Facebook. “If the platform is public, then every Indian regardless of his ideology and commitment has got the right to convey his view. It is a hard fact we need to know that people whose political base has shrunk like anything seek to dominate discourse on these platforms,” he said.

Published on August 18, 2020

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