The heat is on Mark Zuckerberg in India as Facebook and WhatsApp incur the ire of Modi's rivals

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The heat is on Mark Zuckerberg in India as Facebook and WhatsApp incur the ire of Modi's rivals
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted: "BJP and RSS control Facebook and WhatsApp in India. They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate.
  • Shashi Tharoor, the head of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT), has called on Facebook to respond to allegations of ignoring hate speech in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • The allegations come at a time when the social networking giant is already in hot water in the US over market power.
  • Congress has accused BJP and its affiliate the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of being in cahoots with Facebook to propogate one-sided content.

Facebook and WhatsApp have come under the scanner in India again, this time for ignoring hate speech in order to rake in more money from its business in India by siding with the party in power, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

They may face scrutiny by a Parliamentary panel after the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources, that Indian politician T. Raja Singh's hateful posts against Rohingya Muslim immigrants was allowed to stay on the platform because Facebook didn't want to be at odds with the BJP.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT), headed by Member of Parliament (MP) Shashi Tharoor, has called on the social networking giant to respond to these allegations.
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The demand for a probe comes after Facebook along with Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were grilled by the US government over market power.


Congress demands probe
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Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused the party in power, the Bharatiya Janata Pary (BJP), and its affiliate Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of manipulating Facebook to spread news. He demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into alleged violations by the social media platform and its messaging service.

"BJP and RSS control Facebook and WhatsApp in India. They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate," he tweeted.

Not just Facebook, but Congress has also asked the government to clarify any "quid pro quo" it may have had with WhatsApp and Facebook and shed light on what type of business dealings the two had with the government.

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Manipulating Facebook
"There are 40 crore Indians on WhatsApp and over 28 crore on Facebook. So, a probe is necessary into the commercial dealings, propagation of hate content, and connection of Facebook and WhatsApp employees with the BJP," said Congress spokesperson and former Union Minister Ajay Maken said during a virtual press conference,

According to him, the bias and alignment of the Facebook India's leadership team with the BJP and RSS is not limited to the Head of Public Policy in India. "There are many others in that leadership team with a close working relationship with the BJP," said Maken.

Congress said it had raised the issue with the Facebook team in India. "We met the team of Ankhi Das on May 15 and complained about the manipulative content. The team heard us but did nothing," claimed Rohan Gupta, Congress Social Media head. Das is the Public Policy Director, Facebook-India, South and Central Asia.
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Facebook's checkered past
Asked if the Congress lost past elections due to this "manipulation", the Congress leaders said that it is not only elections but its effect on the nation as a whole. The party asserted that it was like attacking the country's soul by propagating one-sided content which is "mostly of hatred".

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is still fresh is in many minds. Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg was summed by the US Congress and investigated Facebook's role in election manipulation.

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The UK too has issued warnings to Facebook. Facebook was accused of similar interference in Brazil.

"India's rich electoral democracy cannot be sacrificed at the altar of Facebook and WhatsApp," the Congress asserted.

(With inputs from IANS)

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