The Communist Party of India (Marxist) Secretary-General Sitaram Yechury on Wednesday hit out at Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for making “baseless” allegations against Left-aligned parties in his letter to Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg.
Prasad had written to Zuckerberg on Tuesday, accusing the social media giant’s senior employees of being biased against right-wing politics and “abusing” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior ministers on record. The Union minister had also alleged 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 last resort of the guilty is to hurl baseless charges against the Left,” Yechury said in a tweet. “Let a JPC [Joint Parliamentary Committee] probe the nexus between the Facebook and BJP-Modi government. The refusal to constitute a JPC is more eloquent.”
Earlier the day, CPI(M) MP from Tamil Nadu PR Natarajan wrote to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who is the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, demanding an inquiry into Facebook’s alleged nexus with the BJP, PTI reported. The committee was scheduled to summon Facebook representatives for a hearing on Wednesday.
Several opposition leaders have criticised the Centre over the report. The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress in West Bengal wrote to Zuckerberg on Wednesday, saying there was enough evidence to substantiate allegations of the BJP-Facebook nexus.
On Tuesday, the Congress attacked the Centre for not agreeing to a Joint Parliamentary Committee investigation into the matter. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, meanwhile, called out Facebook and WhatsApp for their assault” on India’s democracy and social harmony. The party had also written two letters to Zuckerberg on August 18 and August 29.
The Facebook Controversy
The Wall Street Journal reported on August 14 that Facebook’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.
Citing another report published by Time magazine on August 27, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal last week alleged that the BJP had been allowed to exercise control of Whatsapp’s India operations. Facebook, the largest social media company in the world, also owns WhatsApp, the most popular social messaging app in India.
The Congress has asked Zuckerberg 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 Delhi Assembly’s panel on Peace and Harmony had also said last month that it will summon Facebook officials for questioning.
However, Facebook has said it prohibits hate speech that incites violence and enforces policies without regard to political position or party affiliation. Facebook India head Ajit Mohan had on August 21 said they will eliminate content even from Indian public figures if they violate its community standards.