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India Says Vested Interests Using Facebook to ‘Stoke Internal Divisions, Social Disturbances’

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In August, American media reported that Facebook had diluted its hate-speech rules in favour of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Rahul Gandhi, former leader of the main opposition Congress Party said that the report exposed a “sinister connection” between Facebook-WhatsApp and the BJP government in India.

Indian Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday accused Facebook of censoring the content of people with right-wing views.

The accusation comes on the same day that former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi accused Facebook of having “sinister connections” with the national ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, saying that the tech giant's executive Ankhi Das didn't apply hate speech rules to members of the ruling party.

In a letter to Facebook Chief Mark Zuckerberg, Minister Prasad said there was a concerted effort by Facebook India management to not just delete pages or substantially reduce their reach but also to offer no recourse or right of appeal to people who are supportive of the right-of-centre ideology.

“The above documented cases of bias and inaction are seemingly a direct outcome of the dominant political beliefs of individuals in your Facebook India team,” wrote the minister.

In an oblique reference to India’s main opposition party Congress and its former chief Rahul Gandhi Prasad said Facebook’s India team was “dominated by people who belong to a particular political belief”.

“People from this political predisposition have been overwhelmingly defeated by the people in successive free and fair elections. After having lost all democratic legitimacy, they are trying to discredit India’s democratic process by dominating the decision-making apparatus of important social media platforms,” alleged Prasad.
“Facebook is the latest tool in their arsenal to stoke internal divisions and social disturbances,” the minister stated.

The minister pointed out there were multiple instances recently, where Facebook has been used by anarchic and radical elements “whose sole aim is to destroy social order, to recruit people and to assemble them for violence”.

Minister Prasad expressed the hope that Zuckerberg would not allow the platform to be hijacked by any lobby that abhors free speech and tries to enforce one world view and rejects diversity.

In July 2019, the US Federal Trade Commission had slapped a record-breaking $5 billion penalty on Facebook for “deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information”.

India with 700 million internet users is one of the biggest subscriber-base for Facebook and WhatsApp. While Facebook had 346.2 million subscribers, WhatsApp had 340 million according to latest figures in 2020.  

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