The Congress on Saturday attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Facebook row and claimed that in the last 10 days it has been revealed that the two have a close tie.
"In the last 10 days, BJP and Facebook's close relationship have been disclosed. In a new revelation, an international magazine has disclosed a relationship between WhatsApp and the BJP," said party spokesperson Pawan Khera in a press conference in the national capital.
"Beyond just Ankhi Das, what has now been revealed exposes that another senior executive, Shivnath Thukral of Whatsapp is an unabashed devotee of the ruling establishment and was partisan in his professional conduct. The expose reveals Thukral was hired by Facebook in 2017 only because he was 'extremely close' to the ruling establishment. It elaborates that Mr.Thukral's relationship with the ruling party goes as far back as 2013 when he operated websites and Facebook pages for the 2014 election campaign in conjunction with other BJP affiliates who continue to hold senior positions in the current government," he said.
"Documents accessed by this publication show that it was a deliberate plot to keep the relation between the page and the BJP hidden in order to get greater volunteer participation. It was in 2014 that this 'Mera Bharosa' Facebook page changed its name to Modi Bharosa, and thus started sharing pro-BJP and pro-Modi content," Khera added.
The Congress leader further claimed that "Facebook did not act on any hate speeches by the BJP" and added that it "refuses to act even now." "Has Facebook violated its own rule of removing hate speeches because they feared that the government will act against them? After all, India is one of the biggest markets for Facebook. Has the appointment of Thukral as a regulator of hate speech in 2019 had an impact on Facebook taking down vicious speeches by BJP leaders? These are all questions that Facebook needs to answer," Khera said.
He also mentioned about the Whatsapp and said the social networking site has become "the lifeline for the vicious and malicious propaganda of the BJP ecosystem." In fact, it is now the mainstream tool of misinformation, he added.
"Whatsapp wants 40 crore Indians to not use it just for communication but for making payments as well. That is how Whatsapp can earn revenue and its future in India is dependent on this payment feature. This would be a multi-billion dollar initiative for which Whatsapp needs Modi government's approvals and permissions. This is where it gets murky." "Can 40 crore Indians trust Whatsapp, which is indirectly controlled by one political party? What is the assurance that bank details, transaction details and private data of 40 crore Indians using Whatsapp is not being shared with the BJP and misused?" asked Khera.
He also alleged that the "tacit collusion" between Facebook and BJP has "betrayed" the trust of 130 crore Indians stating that "Where Mr Modi tells his MPs to get minimum 300,000 likes on their Facebook pages, Facebook reciprocates to this by not taking down hate speeches of BJP leaders and promoting the BJP's social media ecosystem." Khera demanded that an "exhaustive" and "unbiased" investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee between the unending links of Facebook employees and the ruling establishment should be conducted.
"The investigation must include how Facebook manipulated voter opinion, allowed hate speech and was oblivious to fake news, even when they were in clear violation of their regulations." Notably, a political row broke out after a recent report by an international publication alleging that senior Facebook executives had opposed applying hate speech rules to posts by certain BJP leaders.