New Delhi: Congress’s Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday shared the party’s letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg amid a raging row over an article in US publication Wall Street Journal, which said Facebook deliberately ignored disruptive content from members of the ruling BJP and right-wing leaders. The party has demanded a time-bound high level inquiry into the conduct of Facebook India executives over what it called its “blatant biases and dubious practices”.
The letter also named senior executive Ankhi Das, who WSJ said, was instrumental in making the policy of giving a go by to divisive content despite the issue being flagged by Mr Zuckerberg in an internal townhall.
“We cannot allow any manipulation of our hard-earned democracy through bias, fake news & hate speech. As exposed by @WSJ, Facebook’s involvement in peddling fake and hate news needs to be questioned by all Indians,” Mr Gandhi’s tweet accompanying the letter read..
The Congress letter, signed by the party’s senior leader KC Venugopal, mentioned that the findings of the WSJ published in the article of August 14, “was not a surprise revelation”.
Facebook “May be a willing participant in thwarting the rights and values that the founding leaders of the Congress sacrificed their lives for”, the letter read but added it was not too late for “course correction”.
The first step, it said, should be a time-bound inquiry and the report should be completed within a month or two and made public. The company, the Congress said, should remove the Facebook India team meanwhile. Facebook, the Congress also said, should also publish all instances of “hate speech posts since 2014 that were allowed on the platform” .
A police case has been filed against Ankhi Das, Facebook’s policy chief in India, for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and inciting people.
Over the last two days, the Congress and the BJP have been targetting each other over the WSJ report. Mr Gandhi was the first to tweet the WSJ report. the accompanying comment read, “BJP & RSS control Facebook & Whatsapp in India.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”.
His tweet triggered angry retaliation from the BJP, which cited the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, in which it was alleged that the UK-based firm offered Congress Facebook data to influence voters in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress had denied the allegations.
Dubbing the Congress “losers”, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad 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?”
Yesterday, parliamentarians Shashi Tharoor and Nishikant Dubey clashed on Twitter over the Joint Parliamentary probe the Congress has demanded into the Facebook issue.
As Mr Tharoor said the parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology that he heads may summon Facebook executives, BJP’s Nishikant Dubey declared that the Congress MP has no right to do it without authorization. Trinamool Congress’s Mahua Moitra has backed Mr Tharoor.