The Congress on Monday accused social media company Facebook of influencing elections in India and demanded an investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee. At a press conference, party spokesperson Pawan Khera said that Facebook’s internal reports have identified fake accounts but has not taken any action on the matter.
The comments came two days after internal documents of the social media company accessed by various news organisations showed that Facebook’s algorithm led a dummy user in India to misinformation, hate speech and violent content within just three weeks of its launch.
The test account had been created in February 2019 to ascertain the impact of the algorithms which determine the content that users see on the platform in India. The account had followed algorithm-based recommendations of Facebook to browse pages, watch videos and join groups for 21 days.
The internal documents included details on how bots and fake accounts linked to the “country’s ruling party and Opposition figures” were influencing India’s elections, according to the Hindustan Times.
“This cannot be considered less than an election fraud,” Khera said at the press conference. He described the platform as “Fakebook” since it was promoting “fake posts and fake agenda” for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“It is shocking how only 0.2% of hate speech is removed by Facebook, which despite making the most money from India, does not have the mechanism to filter posts in Hindi or Bengali,” Khera said, according to PTI.
The spokesperson claimed that the social media company and the BJP have a “deep relationship”. He claimed that in 2020, Facebook’s safety team had said that Hindutva organisation Bajrang Dal promoted violence.
“Facebook was going to declare organisations like Bajrang Dal dangerous but it was advised that this will make the country’s ruling party angry,” he said.
He asked Facebook why the company did not act on its safety team’s recommendation. “You [Facebook] are earning from this country and in this country, you are promoting polarising policies,” he alleged. “The Congress will not let this happen.”
Other Congress leaders also criticised the social media giant.
“The Washington Post investigation shows BJP, RSS and its acolytes deploy hate speech on Facebook and WhatsApp,” party MP Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet. “While it’s obvious Govt [government] of India won’t do anything about it, it’s unacceptable that Facebook has one set of standards for USA and another for India.”
Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal said that Facebook had become BJP’s tool for spreading “misinformation and hate speech”.
“Millions of Indians are active on the platform and are regularly being subjected to hateful content,” he tweeted. “Our democracy is being influenced by a foreign company.”