Facebook Employees on Record Abusing PM: RS Prasad to Zuckerberg

RS Prasad has written to Mark Zuckerberg alleging that employees of Facebook are on record abusing the PM.

3 min read
Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Amid the ongoing row over Facebook India’s bias towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday, 1 September, wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, alleging that employees of the social media giant are on record abusing the prime minister and senior Cabinet Ministers of India while working in important positions in Facebook India.

In the letter, Prasad says that he has heard that in run up to 2019 LS Polls, there was a concerted effort by Facebook India to not just delete pages or substantially reduce their reach but also offer no right of appeal to those affected if they were ideologically right-of-centre.

According to Prasad, many mails written regarding this have also gone unanswered, which is seemingly a direct outcome of “dominant political beliefs of individuals” in the Facebook India team.

It may be noted that the Union Minister’s letter to Zuckerberg comes at a time when US media has been reporting suggesting a bias within Facebook India while dealing with posts from members of the BJP or the right wing.

The controversy dates back to 15 August, when The Wall Street Journal report alleged that Ankhi Das, Facebook’s public policy director for India, South and Central Asia, had blocked action against leaders associated with the BJP and other Hindutva groups. The report detailed how Facebook failed to take action against hate speech being spread by leaders of the BJP on its platform.

Recently,The Wall Street Journal published another article claiming to have accessed postings of Das on Facebook's internal communications systems that were ‘perceived to be openly supportive of the BJP’. Another report by TIME also said that Facebook and WhatsApp have been used to spread hate speech and misinformation.

However, while these articles are claiming a bias within Facebook India towards BJP, Prasad is alleging that there is a bias against the right-wing within the company.

Prasad stated citing "credible media reports" that the Facebook India team, right from the managing director to other senior officials, "is dominated by people who belong to a particular political belief", and that "people from this political predisposition have been overwhelmingly defeated in successive free and fair elections."

Referring to the recent articles, Prasad says that "deeply entrenched vested interests aren't satisfied with the shrinking space of one side of the spectrum in India and wants to throttle it completely."

Calling the reports an “internal power struggle” within Facebook, Prasad added, “No other logic can explain how facts are being spun by selective leaks from within your company to try and portray an alternate reality.”

The Union minister also hit out at Facebook’s fact-checking efforts, calling it an issue that the tech giant was outsourcing to third-party fact-checkers, saying that the organisation was absolving “itself of its responsibility to protect users from misinformation and instead out-source this to shady organisations with no credibility”.

Prasad also claimed that there had been multiple instances lately in which Facebook had been used by anarchic and radical elements whose “sole aim is to destroy social order”.

‘Pot Calling Kettle Black’: Congress Lashes Out

Reacting to Prasad’s letter, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala took to Twitter to say that that this was an instance of the “pot calling the kettle black”.

Amid this row, Congress had earlier written to Zuckerberg twice in August, asking him what specific steps have been taken by Facebook to investigate the charges against its operations in India.

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