Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Sunday lashed out at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, calling him a “loser”, after the latter claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh control Facebook and WhatsApp in India.
“BJP & RSS control Facebook & Whatsapp in India,” Gandhi said. “They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook.” He tagged an article in The Wall Street Journal that alleged that Facebook and its owned companies WhatsApp and Instagram ignore hate speech by BJP and RSS leaders on these platforms.
In response, Prasad said that Gandhi cannot influence people in his own party, but complains about the BJP and RSS. “Losers who cannot influence people even in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP & RSS,” he tweeted. “You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica & Facebook to weaponise data before the elections & now have the gall to question us?”
Prasad’s mention of Cambridge Analytica was a reference to a two-year-old scandal, that the firm had pitched a proposal to the Congress for “data mining of Facebook posts and tweets” and “influencing voter intention” ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress had then said that the contract worth Rs 2.5 crore was finally not signed.
In another tweet, Prasad said that in present-day India, “access to information and freedom of expression has been democratized”. He claimed Gandhi was feeling hurt because his family could no longer control such access.
Prasad also said he had not heard Gandhi condemn the riots in Bengaluru last week, and wondered why the Congress leader was silent. “Where did your courage disappear?” he asked. The violence had broken out after a relative of Congress MLA R Akhanda Srinivas Murthy put up a Facebook post that was allegedly derogatory to Islam’s founder Muhammad. It led to the deaths of four people.
Meanwhile, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would like to hear from Facebook about the news report Gandhi had tagged in his tweet.