In George Orwell’s 1984, it was a thoughtcrime to actually disagree with the viewpoints established by Big Brother. The latest manifestation of this Orwellian concept is the Left-Congress cabal’s outrage over a Western media house’s hit-job on Facebook, an already Left-Congress-leaning platform. Truth, as in the case of 1984, is a casualty. Merely scratching the surface reveals how this storm in a teacup is merely an exercise to browbeat Facebook for “allowing” certain opinions to even exist.
It is no secret globally that Facebook has been hauled up by various government bodies for controlling the flow of facts. The Singapore Parliamentary hearings in this context have become rather famous — representatives of Facebook were pulled up for their smug attitude. In its parent country, the United States, a Senate hearing had laid bare the hoax of neutrality by cornering Facebook on “using the powers of monopoly to censor political speech”, particularly conservative viewpoints. In India, too, we have seen examples of Facebook actually filtering out non-Left and non-Congress viewpoints through manufactured labels of “fake news”. They are even accused of using shadow banning algorithms.
What the Left wants is not control over hate speech but unfettered freedom of hate speech to its ideologically-aligned members. That is why you would hear Mark Zuckerberg quote Kapil Mishra but say nothing on Sonia Gandhi who exhorted people in Delhi to do “aar paar ki ladai” (prepare for the final battle). There are millions of posts mocking Hindu gods and abusing right-of-centre leaders. But Facebook’s advanced algorithms and community standards fail to catch them. However, unsuspecting common people running pro-right-of-centre pages are suspended with no right to appeal.
What the Left wants is not diversity in organisational culture. It wants full compliance. Hence, it does not suffice for them if most hirings in Facebook India come from Left-Congress background. There are examples of current and former Facebook executives with links to the former government and opposition parties, and some of them have been openly critical of the prime minister as well. To accuse them of being pro-BJP is laughable.
Nor does it bother the gatekeepers that the Congress party was caught hand-in-glove with Cambridge Analytica, an infamous big-data-enabled democracy manipulator that has interfered in several countries’ electoral processes and has used Facebook as its weapon. They actually had the Congress hand symbol in their office but this controversy was silently buried. Imagine the uproar if the same linkage had been found with a BJP member’s son-in-law’s father’s nephew’s brother’s son.
The problem, however, is much larger, and intellectually rooted in the fake “post-truth” world phenomenon bandied about by a bunch of elitists afraid to lose their power of labelling views as thoughtcrimes. Scared of being shown the mirror of reality, an entire cabal has decided to rally their comrades and undertake hit jobs on those who do not fully comply with their dictums.
Sadly, the real story has been missed in the entire discussion — the actual scam by Facebook that has been brushed under the carpet for too long. Funding and validating “eminent journalists” belonging to the pro-Left cabal and empowering them to become the arbiters of truth on Facebook is the game, whereas anything that goes against their views and opinions is deemed fake. Out-of-job Left-leaning journalists and their views count as gospel truth to the gatekeepers, but the Prime Minister’s speech on Independence Day got labelled as fake news. Is it just a coincidence that the battery of Facebook certified eminent “fact-checkers” haven’t yet been able to fact-check any of Rahul Gandhi’s claims?
It is surprising but not shocking to note that Facebook even allowed paid promotion of posts using morphed pictures of PM Modi with a Pakistan flag, whereas pages that allow opposing viewpoints often lose their monetisation for merely stating facts.
After the decline of the grip of mainstream media as the sole arbiter of truth, the battle for narratives has moved to social media. Originally, these were not platforms that the Left-Congress controlled, because there were no gates or gatekeepers. However, since then, a planned campaign has taken over these platforms too.
This latest round of manufactured outrage should be seen as the Left’s internecine warfare to control an already-Congress and Left-leaning platform and punish them for even the most minor of thoughtcrimes — allowing alternative viewpoints. This is yet another attempt to regain a monopoly over narratives and disenfranchising alternate versions. Armed with the power of an organised cabal, the gatekeepers believe that they can continue to perpetuate the same one-sided monopoly.
The more social media platforms fall to tendentious voices from the Left and become echo chambers, the more they will lose their credibility. We should all stand up and resist this organised assault by the Left-Congress ecosystem on our fundamental right to exercise our free speech within the boundaries set by Indian law.
The writer is a former Minister of State of Information and Broadcasting (2018-19) and a BJP MP