Social networking sites may have more to answer for ahead of the elections in India
- Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are already being called before the Indian government ahead of general elections in the country.
- But they may be in more hot water with a local think tank sending a letter to the Indian government to look into Facebook — and other tech companies — lobbying efforts.
- This development comes after the Guardian revealed documents exposing Facebook’s “global lobbying operation.”
The Center for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) has filed a letter with the Indian Parliament’s standing committee to look into the influence that social media networks have on the government.
The letter signed by the former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ideologue, KN Govindacharya, and CASC’s advocate states that a social media company’s financial statements may be called into question to estimate its turnover from India operations.”as well as the amount spent on lobbying to delay the data protection law”.
This comes after The Guardian revealed a report about Facebook’s “secretive global lobbying operation” on Saturday — citing a list of countries that included India.
Social networking companies versus India
Facebook, Twitter Instagram and Whatsapp are already under the Indian government’s scanner for deterring foreign influence or political bias on their platforms.
Twitter was recently called into question for being biased against right wing Twitterati.
Facebook’s track record is already in question due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the role it played in the 2016 US Presidential election.
Whatsapp, bought out by Facebook in 2014, is still battling it out over end-to-end encryption with the Indian government after forwarded messages — accused of spreading misinformation — caused a series of lynchings in the country.
Instagram, also owned by Facebook, has managed to stay out of mainstream trouble so far but there have been reports of the platform turning into a safe haven for sexual solicitation. That may not be political influence or foreign manipulation, but it does call the social networking site’s screening into questions.
The letter by the CASC questioned data localisation laws have not been implemented despite the numerous examples of data breaches.
While Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, didn’t show up for the Parliamentary meeting in front of the Indian government — he did sent Colin Crowell, Twitter’s Vice President and Global Policy Head.
After the meeting, the company was issued a 10-day deadline to respond to the panel’s questions.
Facebook is scheduled to appear before the same committee tomorrow but Mark Zuckerberg, the company CEO or Sheryl Sandberg, its COO will be able to make it to India. Instead, Joel Kaplan, Vice President and Head of Global Public Policy at Facebook, will be present at the meeting instead.
Concerns have heightened since one of the memos disclosed by The Guardian exposed how Facebook encouraged Enda Kenny, the former Irish Prime Minister, to use his influence on the Data Protection Directive during Ireland’s presidency of the European Union — as it was a “threat to jobs, innovation and economic growth in Europe.”
The Indian government hasn’t issued a response yet but it appears social networking sites may face pressure to be brought under the regulatory lens for lobbying as well.
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