IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accuses Facebook of ‘bias and inaction’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 01, 2020 Published on September 01, 2020

Asks social media platform to have country-specific community guidelines

Union Minister of Telecom & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, on Tuesday wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg raising concerns over ‘concerted efforts’ by Facebook India management for deletion of some pages and complained of ‘bias’ against certain ideologies.

He said that the social media platform should come up with country specific community guidelines for better representation of diversity of the country.

“I have been informed that in the run-up to 2019 General Elections in India, there was a concerted effort by Facebook India management to not just delete pages or substantially reduce their reach but also offer no recourse or right of appeal to affected people who are supportive of the right-of-centre ideology,” he stated in his letter.

He said such documented cases of “bias and inaction” seemed like a direct outcome of the “dominant political beliefs of individuals” in Facebook’s India team.”

“As a transnational digital platform, Facebook must not only be fair and neutral but also visibly seen to be so to users of diverse beliefs and ideologies,” the Union Minister stated while adding that individual likes and dislikes of its management team members cannot have a bearing on the social media platforms’ public policies.

Prasad’s letter comes at a time when the social media major is embroiled in a controversy over how it regulates political content.

“It is problematic when Facebook employees are on record abusing the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet Ministers of India while still working in Facebook India and managing important positions. It is doubly problematic when the bias of individuals becomes an inherent bias of the platform,” Prasad said in a three-page letter to Zuckerberg.

Alleging that ‘facts are being spun by selective leaks’ by the company, he said that a group of FB employees with vested interests are colluding with the international media to “cast aspersions on the democratic process of our great democracy.” In the letter, the Minister stated that any interference in India’s political process through gossip and innuendo is “condemnable.”

Raising concerns over the fact that the social media platform relies on outsourced “third-party fact-checkers”, Prasad said FB cannot absolve itself from the responsibility to protect users from “misinformation”

Prasad said that Facebook’s community guidelines must acknowledge diversity and local sensitivities. “ To respect the social, religious, cultural and linguistic diversity of India, Facebook should put in place country specific community guidelines,” the letter added.

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Published on September 01, 2020
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