- BJP and Congress have come face to face with the ‘control’ issue of Facebook and WhatsApp in the country. Congress has demanded a joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) inquiry into the matter, citing media reports.
US newspaper, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), has questioned the fairness of Facebook. The WSJ claimed in its report that Facebook had deliberately acted against BJP leaders and some groups in taking action against the ‘hate speech’ posted on its platform. They did not take action and remove such posts on time.
After this report came out, many members of the Congress party, including MP Shashi Tharoor, had asked for the Parliamentary Committee to question the Facebook officials. This had sparked an outrage among the BJP MPs, who had even asked for Shashi Tharoor to be removed from the Parliamentary Committee.
Nevertheless, the JPC went ahead with the meeting with Facebook officials which took place on Wednesday, 2nd September. The details of this meeting were not revealed, but MP Shashi Tharoor did make it public that they would hold another meeting with the Facebook officials for the same.
This week, a report was released by The Indian Express, exposing the relationship between Facebook and BJP. According to this report, Facebook deleted 14 of the 44 flagged pages. Allegedly, on the request of BJP. They have also reinstated 17 pages that had previously been deleted.
These request were, reportedly made in emails between the BJP IT Cell Head Amit Malviya and the Facebook executives, which also includes Aankhi Das. In those emails, accessed by Indian Express, Facebook was asked to monetize two news pages, OpIndia and Chaupal,which have been previously seen as a strong supporter of BJP. It was after this request that these pages started receiving ad revenues.
Among the pages that were deleted, some were in support of famous reporters Ravish Kumar and Vinod Dua, and other pages include pages that are were clearly anti-BJP and have been known to call out the government for their wrong actions. These pages also included “The truth about Gujrat”.
The emails were directed towards Aankhi Das and Shivnath Thukral, in February 2019.
Malviya said: “There were pages like I Support Narendra Modi and other large pages run by genuine volunteers who were fearful they might get struck down. We have in the past spoken to Facebook and asked them to do the right thing. They barely even respond to us. We were seeking a more transparent and fair system. Clearly, they have thought otherwise.”
Such revelations give a new light to the already existing information that has been provided to the people. In the light of these events, Congress had written to Mark Zuckerberg, asking for a clarification on the BJP-Facebook link. Trimool Congress has also written to Zuckerberg regarding the same.
Facebook had, a few weeks ago, admitted that they need to do take much stronger steps in curbing the ongoing pandemic of hate speeches on their platform. Whatsapp, which is now a part of Facebook, was also named in the JNU violence. It was reported that the entire plan was hatched on a watsapp group. All these points do not seem to help Facebook in any manner. Instagram, also a part of Instagram, has also been noted to delete pages that are closely related to BJP and the Governments critics.
The close relations of Aankhi Das and BJP have raised many questions among the citizens. Such bias can point to a much deep rooted problem in the country. Hate speech has become a huge issue in India, where, more often than not, it is the politicians who engage in such speech. Removing such hate speech from its platform should be a top priority for all social media networks.
Only further investigation will prove whether BJP and Facebook have any such connections or not.