‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’: Upheaval in India Over Facebook’s ‘BJP Bias’

The alleged bias of Facebook led to political upheaval in India, raising questions on its impartiality.

Updated
Politics
5 min read
Gandhi posted in response to a Wall Street Journal report, ‘FB Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics’.
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The alleged bias of Facebook against hate speeches by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, as claimed by a report in the The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), has led to political upheaval in India and raised questions on the impartiality of the social media giant.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday, 16 August, alleged that the BJP and the RSS control Facebook and 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," Gandhi posted on Twitter on Sunday, attaching screenshots to an article by The Wall Street Journal titled, 'Facebook Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics: Company executive opposed move to ban controversial politician'.

‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’: Upheaval in India Over Facebook’s ‘BJP Bias’
(Screenshot)

What the Article Says

The WSJ article, citing current and former employees of Facebook, says that the social media company’s "top public-policy executive in the country, Ankhi Das, opposed applying the hate-speech rules to Mr Singh (controversial BJP MLA T Raja Singh) and at least three other Hindu nationalist individuals and groups flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence.”

Das, according to the report, told staff members that "punishing violations by politicians from Modi's party would damage the company's business prospects in the country."

Ravi Shankar Prasad Hits Back

The report generated political responses from others too, with Congress' Shashi Tharoor saying that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would like a response from Facebook regarding the report and "what they propose to do about hate speech in India".

Meanwhile, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad shot back at Gandhi, while accusing him of having an "alliance with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to weaponise data before the elections."

“Losers who cannot influence people in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP and RSS,” he wrote.

‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’: Upheaval in India Over Facebook’s ‘BJP Bias’
(Screenshot)

"The fact is that today, access to information and freedom of expression has been democratised. It is no longer controlled by retainers of your family and that is why it hurts," Prasad posted in response to Gandhi's tweet.

#AntiIndiaFacebook: Surjewala Demands JPC Probe

Randeep Singh Surjewala, too, took to Twitter to demand a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee.

“Facebook-What’sapp sinister connection to BJP Govt exposed! Is Facebook being used to spread ‘Fake News’ & ‘Hate Material’? What is the connect of Facebook India leaders to BJP? Does it not warrant a JPC probe? #AntiIndiaFacebook,” he tweeted.

‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’: Upheaval in India Over Facebook’s ‘BJP Bias’

Surjewala also responded to Prasad’s reaction to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet, asking why did the BJP not file a complaint against Cambridge Analytica if the party had issue with it’s functioning.

‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’: Upheaval in India Over Facebook’s ‘BJP Bias’
‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’: Upheaval in India Over Facebook’s ‘BJP Bias’
‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’: Upheaval in India Over Facebook’s ‘BJP Bias’

‘Standing Committee Will Summon Facebook’: Tharoor

Congress leader and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology Shashi Tharoor tweeted that the committee will seek views of Facebook in the matter.

“The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from @Facebook about these reports & what they propose to do about hate-speech in India,” he tweeted in a reply to Gandhi’s tweet.

“Our Parliamentary committee will, in the normal course, consider testimony under the topic “Safeguarding citizens’ rights & prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”. The subject is squarely within the IT Cmt’s mandate & @Faceboo has been summoned in the past,” he said.

‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’: Upheaval in India Over Facebook’s ‘BJP Bias’

Congress Crying Foul, Says Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

BJP MP and former Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, in an article written by him for The Indian Express called it “the Left-Congress cabal’s outrage over a Western media house’s hit-job on Facebook” and claimed that the social media platform has evidently been left-leaning over the years.

“It is no secret globally that Facebook has been hauled up by various government bodies for controlling the flow of facts. The Singapore Parliamentary hearings in this context have become rather famous — representatives of Facebook were pulled up for their smug attitude,” Rathore wrote.

“What the Left wants is not control over hate speech but unfettered freedom of hate speech to its ideologically-aligned members. That is why you would hear Mark Zuckerberg quote Kapil Mishra but say nothing on Sonia Gandhi who exhorted people in Delhi to do “aar paar ki ladai” (prepare for the final battle). There are millions of posts mocking Hindu gods and abusing right-of-centre leaders. But Facebook’s advanced algorithms and community standards fail to catch them. However, unsuspecting common people running pro-right-of-centre pages are suspended with no right to appeal,” he wrote.

‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’

Srivatsa, National Campaign in-charge for Youth Congress said that Facebook in India has always been lenient on BJP.

“Facebook in India has always been lenient on BJP. They don't take any action on proxy communal pages run by BJP. But they block/reduce reach of anti-BJP pages. Whatsapp has done nothing to stop fake news. Why? Bcos BJP is the beneficiary! #FB_BJP_BhaiBhai,” he tweeted.

‘FB-BJP Bhai Bhai’: Upheaval in India Over Facebook’s ‘BJP Bias’

(With inoputs from The Indian Express.)

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