New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying the Wall Street Journal‘s story that the social media giant relaxed its hate speech rules to favour BJP leaders is a ‘damning and serious allegation’ of its India units “interference” in the country’s electoral democracy.
In a letter to Zuckerberg, Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal demanded a time-bound high-level inquiry into the conduct of Facebook India leadership team and their operations. He also demanded that pending the internal investigation and submission of the report, the company should “consider a new team to lead Facebook India operations so as to not influence the probe”.
“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 within one or two months. The report should also be made public,” Venugopal said in the letter.
Congress repeatedly raised issue of bias with many Facebook executives. Would suggest to set up a high-level inquiry into Facebook India leadership team & submit report to Facebook Inc. within a reasonable period of time: KC Venugopal,AICC Gen Secy to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pic.twitter.com/Gahb5lnrgI
— ANI (@ANI) August 18, 2020
Both Facebook and the BJP have come under attack after the report was published. In its response, Facebook on Monday said the company’s social media platform prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence, adding these policies are enforced globally without regard to political affiliation.
However, Facebook, which counts India among its largest markets globally, acknowledged that “there is more to do”.
In his letter, Venugopal said that the fact that Facebook India deleted the hate speech posts mentioned in the WSJ article after the newspaper’s enquiries is a ‘clear admission of guilt’. He is it is deeply disturbing that Facebook may be a “willing participant in thwarting the rights and values that the founding leaders of the Congress sacrificed their lives for”.
He said though the contents of the WSJ article were deeply disappointing to the Congress party, “it was not a surprise revelation”. The party has repeatedly raised the issue of bias with many executives of Facebook and WhatsApp but in vain, he said. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.
It is not too later for Facebook to correct its course, the AICC general secretary said, requesting ‘remedial action’ in the form of a ‘thorough and impartial investigation’ into Facebook India’s operations and practices.
He made some suggestions, including that the US publish all instances of “hate speech posts since 2014 that were allowed on the platform.” He said though the WSJ article mentions hate speech posts made by at least three other politicians that were wilfully permitted by Facebook India, on closer inspection, there are bound to be “thousands of such insidious posts”.
He said the Congress and other political parties have raised the issue in India’s parliament, adding that his party has also demanded a probe by a parliamentary committee into “this very serious issue of Facebook’s interference in world’s largest electoral democracy”.
Venugopal said the Congress is joined by other leading political parties in “expressing fear over Facebook’s purported role in manipulating India’s electoral democracy”.
He hoped that Zuckerberg will appreciate that the allegations of bias are a matter of ‘grave concern’ to not just India but the world. “We hope that you give this issue the utmost priority for resolution and win back the trust and confidence of the 400 million Indians [who] use Facebook and WhatsApp,” he said.