End Facebook's 'Interference' in India's Electoral Politics, Congress President Sonia Gandhi Demands

© Photo : iamsoniagandhi/instagramSonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.03.2022
An investigation by an Indian nonprofit, The Reporters’ Collective, has claimed that Facebook “allowed” numerous ghost and surrogate advertisers to “secretly fund” BJP’s election campaign in India. The media probe analysed ads placed on Facebook between February 2019 and November 2020. BJP’s visibility on Facebook almost doubled during this period.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the chief of India's main opposition party, on Wednesday slammed American social media giants Facebook and Twitter for reportedly “favouring” the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during elections.
Speaking during the ‘Zero Hour’ at the Parliament, the opposition parliamentarian called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to put an end to the “systematic influence and interference of Facebook” as well as other social media giants in India's "electoral politics".

“Recently, Al Jazeera and the Reporter’s Collective have demonstrated how a toxic ecosystem of proxy advertisers posing as news media is flourishing on Facebook, bypassing the election laws of our nation, breaking Facebook’s own rules, and completely suppressing the voice of those who are speaking up against the government,” the 75-year-old Gandhi said.

She further accused the American social media companies of being increasingly employed by India’s ruling party (BJP) to “shape political narratives” and distort the “level playing field” in the country's politics.
The media investigation cited by Gandhi says that BJP candidates “officially” spent $1.36 million on 26,291 advertisements that they placed on Facebook between February 2019 and November 2020. Ten elections were held in the country during this period. These ads accumulated 1.36 billion views.
On the other hand, the “ghost and surreptitious” advertisers spent $761,246 on 34,844 pro-BJP ads they placed on Facebook during the same period. These ads garnered around 1.31 billion views, almost the same as the visibility of the ads claimed by BJP.
Congress’ ghost advertisers, in comparison, spent $30,032 on 3,310 ads that they placed on Facebook during the same period, attracting around 73 million views. These views were in addition to 1.1 billion views that the official Congress ads got on Facebook.
The Facebook logo displayed on a mobile phone is seen through a magnifying glass in this picture illustration taken February 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 31.03.2021
Facebook to Combat Hate Speech, Misinformation, Voter Suppression Amid Assembly Elections in India
Referring to another news report published in the Wall Street Journal in 2020, the Congress chief blamed Facebook and Twitter for “disturbing India’s social harmony”.
The American publication alleged that Facebook’s executives were “bending hate speech” rules in India to apparently further the Hindu nationalist ideology which is espoused by the BJP leadership.
“Young and old minds alike are being filled with hate through emotionally charged disinformation and proxy advertising. Companies like Facebook are aware of this and are profiting from it,” she remarked.
“These reports show a growing nexus between big corporations, the ruling establishment and global social media giants like Facebook,” Gandhi noted with concern.
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