The Congress on Tuesday attacked the Narendra Modi-led government for not seeking a Joint Parliamentary Committee investigation into alleged collusion between social media giant Facebook and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Congress’ attack came after reports that Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had written to Facebook accusing its employees of “abusing” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Cabinet ministers on record.
“If Modi government has an iota of credibility, why doesn’t it agree to a JPC probe into the shameless collusion between #Facebook India & BJP,” Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted. “Why are u running scared? Why are u giving cover fire to guilty? Why protect the colluders? Where is the 56 inch chest?”
Prasad had alleged in his letter that in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, Facebook’s management in India made an effort 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”.
The Union law minister said there were “credible reports” to show that the Facebook India team “is dominated by people who belong to a particular political belief”. “People from this political predisposition have been overwhelmingly defeated in successive free and fair elections,” Prasad said. Prasad said that “selective leaks” from Facebook were trying to portray an alternate reality.
The Union minister added that there was an “internal power” struggle in Facebook for ideological control. He alleged that Facebook was being used by “anarchic and radical elements” to destroy social order.
Contrary to the Union minister’s allegations, several reports have emerged of Facebook favouring the BJP. According to one such report, Facebook removed 14 of the 44 pages flagged by the BJP for being opposed to it in January 2019.
The Facebook controversy
Facebook India is in the midst of a political crisis after The Wall Street Journal reported that the company’s India policy head Ankhi Das had opposed the idea of removing incendiary posts by BJP leaders, warning that this could hurt their “commercial interests”. Das had also not revealed that Facebook had deleted fake news pages connected to the saffron party, according to the report.
Last week, the Congress wrote to Zuckerberg, the second time in a fortnight, asking what steps the social media company took to investigate allegations that its India team ignored hate speech policy to avoid ruining its relationship with the BJP. The party also accused WhatsApp’s India team of allowing the messaging app for hate speech and consequent “tearing of India’s fabric of social harmony”.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has summoned Facebook representatives for a discussion on Thursday about allegations of not applying hate-speech rules to BJP leaders. The Delhi Assembly’s panel on Peace and Harmony has also decided to summon Facebook officials late last month.
‘No one can interfere in India’s affairs’: Rahul Gandhi
Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday claimed that international media has “exposed” Facebook and WhatsApp’s “brazen assault” on India’s democracy and social harmony. He demanded an investigation into the alleged collusion between Facebook and BJP.
“No one, let alone a foreign company, can be allowed to interfere in our nation’s affairs,” Gandhi tweeted, tagging the Wall Street Journal article. “They must be investigated immediately and when found guilty, punished.”