The Congress party on Tuesday unearthed documents to question the interference of Facebook in Indian elections and openly helping out the Bhartiya Janata Party since 2012, even though the country's election law bars foreigners from participating in the democratic process.
Continuing with its tirade against Facebook India, Congress spokesman Pawan Khera cited internal memos that showed how the social media platform had helped the BJP all these years in making viral fake news on opposition leaders. One such instance of fake news getting traction was that about then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav raising his hand at his father.
The target of the Congress attack on Tuesday was Ankhi Das, the India head of Facebook; the party cited her claim that she had drafted letters of late BJP leader Arun Jaitley and thus turned Facebook into a BJP lobbyist, instead of remaining a detached social media platform.
Khera reproduced an article written by Das on May 17, 2014, a day after the Lok Sabha election results were out, on how her social media platform had to fight with the outgoing Congress government. She also gave Facebook credit for the BJP's victory because of its continuous campaign from 2011 to 2014.
Khera said Das also talks of an election tracker launched by Facebook on March 4, 2014, to influence the young voters by showing the BJP as the No 1 party and Narendra Modi as the No 1 leader. He cited how then Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat became suspicious and wanted on March 23, 2018, to cancel the deal with Facebook for voter awareness programme on the grounds of data breach and influencing the elections.
But just after four days, the Election Commission announced its decision to continue the partnership with Facebook. Obviously pressure from the government had worked, he said.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Tuesday shot off a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, seeking a high-level inquiry into the company's India head and the favourable treatment accorded to the BJP leaders, disregarding abuses, hatred and lies. The party also wants the probe report to be made public.
Party General Secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal drew attention in the letter to the allegations of bias and partisanship made against Facebook in a recent Wall Street Journal report, levelling clear charges against Facebook India leadership of being complicit in propagating hate speeches by the ruling BJP leaders. The letter also said that Facebook India’s deletion of hate speech posts after the Wall Street Journal made its enquiries was a “clear admission of guilt."
Venugopal wrote: “While we were deeply disappointed to read the Wall Street Journal article, we must acknowledge that it was not a surprise (sic) revelation. The Congress party had repeatedly raised the issue of bias with many executives of Facebook and WhatsApp."
As an exercise of transparency, he asked that the company publish all instances of hate speech posts that were allowed on its platform since 2014. “The WSJ article mentions hate speech of at least three other politicians that were wilfully permitted by Facebook India. On closer perusal, you will see thousands of such insidious posts,” the letter said.
The party also asked that until the probe is over, Facebook India needed to be led by a new team to prevent any influence 0f the investigation.