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Congress writes to Mark Zuckerberg, seeks inquiry into Facebook India operations

The letter, sent by Congress general secretary KC Venugopal, also suggested that the report be submitted to the board of Facebook Inc "within a reasonable period of time such as one/two months" and be made public.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: August 19, 2020 1:44:53 am
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook ads, Companies withdraw Facebook ads, Facebook ads boycott, Indian Express The Congress' letter to Zuckerberg came over an article which the party claimed "revealed evidence of biases and a quid pro quo relationship" of Facebook India with the BJP.

After having demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into charges that Facebook’s India team meted out favourable treatment to the ruling BJP, the Congress Tuesday wrote to the social media giant’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to set up a time-bound “high-level inquiry” into its leadership in India and their operations and put in place a new team until completion of the internal probe.

In the letter to Zuckerberg, Congress general secretary in charge of organisation K C Venugopal also asked Facebook to publish “all instances of hate speech posts since 2014 that were allowed on the platform”.

This comes days after The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook’s top public policy executive in India, citing business reasons, didn’t apply “hate-speech rules” to at least four individuals and groups linked with BJP who were “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence”.

“Set up a high-level inquiry by Facebook Headquarters into the Facebook India leadership team and their operations and submit a report to the board of Facebook Inc. within a reasonable period of time such as one/two months. This report should also be made public. Publish and make transparent all instances of hate speech posts since 2014 that were allowed on the platform… Until the completion of the internal investigation and submission of the report, please consider to lead Facebook India operations by a new team so as to not influence the investigation,” the letter said.

Read | Rahul Gandhi attacks BJP over WSJ report on Facebook, party hits back

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi raised the issue on Twitter. “We cannot allow any manipulation of our hard-earned democracy through bias, fake news & hate speech. As exposed by WSJ, Facebook’s involvement in peddling fake and hate news needs to be questioned by all Indians,” he tweeted.

Referring to the WSJ report which he said spoke about “Facebook India’s blatant biases and dubious practices in content regulation”, Venugopal said “there are clear charges in the article against the leadership of Facebook India of favouring one political party, the BJP, consistently and being complicit in propagating hate speech by political leaders belonging to the BJP”.

Pointing out that the article states that Facebook India’s Public Policy Director Ankhi Das has provided the BJP with favourable treatment on election-related issues, he said, “This is a damning and serious allegation of Facebook India’s interference in India’s electoral democracy.”

“Further, the article quotes a Facebook Inc. spokesman, Mr. Andy Stone, acknowledging the implicit biases of Facebook India’s leadership. It also points out that Facebook India deleted the hate speech posts after investigative inquiries by The Wall Street Journal, which, if true, is a clear admission of guilt,” he has written.

Venugopal reminded Zuckerberg that “India is one of the biggest markets in terms of users for Facebook and WhatsApp”. “Therefore, the expectations of social and moral responsibility of Facebook is even higher in nations such as ours,” he wrote.

“The Congress has repeatedly raised the issue of bias with many executives of Facebook and WhatsApp. In one of such meetings, I also participated and raised multiple concerns to mostly deaf ears. To add, other political parties have also raised this issue in India’s Parliament… We believe it is still not too late to course correct and make amends. The starting point for a remedial action is a thorough and impartial investigation and inquiry into the Facebook India operations and practices,” he added.

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