In the middle of a huge controversy over reports alleging a Facebook executive was biased towards members of the ruling BJP, the government has written to Mark Zuckerberg alleging quite the opposite.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a sharp letter to the Facebook founder, alleged that employees of the social media giant “are on record abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior cabinet ministers” while still working in Facebook India and managing important positions. However, he said, there were attempts through “selective leaks” to portray a different reality.
The “interference in India’s political process through gossip, whispers and innuendo is condemnable. This collusion of Facebook with the international media is giving free run to malevolent vested interests to cast aspersions on the democratic process of our great democracy,” he wrote.
The IT minister wrote he had been told that in the run-up to the 2019 election, “there was a concerted effort by the Facebook India management to not just delete pages or substantially reduce their reach but also offer no recourse or right of appeal to affected people who are supportive of the right-of-centre ideology”.
Mr Prasad wrote citing “credible media reports” that the Facebook India team, right from the managing director to other senior officials, “is dominated by people who belong to a particular political belief”. He added that “people from this political predisposition have been overwhelmingly defeated in successive free and fair elections.”
The minister’s allegations have emerged at a time opposition parties, especially the Congress, have seized on US media articles suggesting Facebook’s bias while dealing with posts from members of the BJP or the rightwing. Facebook officials have been asked to appear before a parliamentary committee headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tomorrow to answer questions on these reports.
The minister, in an apparent reference to these reports, wrote that it seemed “deeply entrenched vested interests aren’t satisfied with the shrinking space of one side of the spectrum in India and wants to throttle it completely.”
Calling the reports an “internal power struggle” within Facebook, Mr Prasad said: “No other logic can explain how facts are being spun by selective leaks from within your company to try and portray an alternate reality.”