Taking their political rivalry to the social media field, India’s primary opposition party, the Indian National Congress, has accused Facebook of favourable treatment towards the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Congress leader Ajay Maken, in a press briefing, has demanded of a parliamentary panel to probe the same.
“Congress party demands the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee to probe the relations of Facebook and WhatsApp employees with the ruling party,” said Maken at a news briefing held recently.
The issue has risen from a Wall Street Journal article that was published earlier on Friday. In the article WSJ says that Facebook ignored requests to remove incendiary comments from BJP’s ministers on grounds of protecting business interests. Facebook India’s Public Policy Director Ankhi Das told staff members that “punishing violations” by BJP politicians “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country, Facebook’s biggest global market by number of users,” WSJ reported.
The Congress Party has now made this report a basis for attacking both Facebook and the ruling BJP government. In fact, former President of the Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, went on to say that “BJP controls Facebook and Whatsapp in India”. He went on to add “They (BJP) spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate”.
While most of it may or may not be true, Facebook has faced similar accusations elsewhere in the world. The company’s role in US elections of 2016, which to everyone’s shock, resulted in Donald Trump becoming the president, is well documented. Then more recently, Facebook had been critically accused of not removing posts from Trump or Trump’s campaign, that clearly incited violence. Twitter had removed similar posts and flagged multiple Trump tweets/videos over violation of its content moderation policies.
Facebook later removed a few posts and videos of Trump, facing massive scrutiny and heat from its own users as well as multiple lawmakers. Some of the biggest multinationals and corporates globally, continue to run a campaign against putting ads on Facebook.
In India, Facebook has massive business interests. For one, both Facebook and Whatsapp count India among its largest userbase globally. Then more recently, Facebook also invested a massive $5.7Bn in Mukesh Ambani-led digital tech and telecom behemoth, Jio Platforms.