BJP, RSS Controlling Facebook, WhatsApp, Says Rahul; BJP Hits Back

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Mark Zuckerberg during the townhall. Image courtesy: @MEAIndia/Twitter

The Wall Street Journal alleged that Facebook looked the other way in cases of hate speech and objectionable content from leaders and workers of the ruling party in India

Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Wall Street Journal’s investigative report on Facebook alleging that the Mark Zuckerberg company has been ignoring hate speeches by BJP leaders has prompted a war of words between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the main opposition Congress. Leaders of the two parties are out on Twitter with scathing attacks on one another.

It began with Rahul Gandhi of the Congress who tweeted: “BJP & RSS control Facebook & WhatsApp in India. They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook.”

He also tagged photo of the WSJ’s report titled “Facebook Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics – Company executive opposed move to ban controversial politician.”

 

The Journal alleged that Facebook looked the other way in cases of hate speech and objectionable content from leaders and workers of the ruling party in India. The Journal also reported that an executive of the Facebook in India had said punishing violations by BJP workers “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”. Quoting current and former employees, the article said Facebook has a “broader pattern of favouritism” towards the BJP.

Shashi Tharoor, a senior leader of Congress Party, commented on Rahul Gandhi’s tweet, “The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from @Facebook about these reports & what they propose to do about hate-speech in India.”

 

BJP’s response to the tweets came from Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who heads the communications department. He retaliated with the two-year-old Cambridge Analytica issue. “Losers who cannot influence people even in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP & RSS. You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica & Facebook to weaponise data before the elections & now have the gall to question us?”, the tweet reads.

 

BJP MP from Bengaluru South, Tejasvi Surya, who is known for his misogynistic comments on social media, made a similar allegation against Facebook to nullify the claims of the WSJ. Inviting pleas he tweeted, “Many have complained that Facebook is unfairly censoring many nationalist, pro-India or pro-Hindu voices. As a member of the Standing Committee on IT, I will take it up with concern in appropriate forums. Please send me your complaints, if any, on the issue to contact@tejasvisurya.in

Another controversial leader of the BJP, Kapil Mishra, too, jumped in. He sought invoked Cambridge Analytica issue. He tweeted, “Seems Congress is blackmailing Facebook to hide some serious crimes. Cambridge Analytica scam is just the tip of the iceberg of Congress manipulating opinions and freedom of expression in India.”

 

Ravi Shankar Prasad posted one more tweet: “Access to information and freedom of expression has been democratized”. “It is no longer controlled by retainers of your family and that is why it hurts,” he added.

Cambridge Analytica was in news in India in March 2018, a year before the general elections last year. The Congress and the BJP traded charges after it emerged that the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica – a London-based data firm accused of accessing data of millions of Facebook users to help elect US President Donald Trump in 2016 – could have links to elections in India, reported NDTV.

According to NDTV, Cambridge Analytica’s website said the company provided its services during the Bihar election in 2010 to a political party in India. The website of the Indian affiliate of Cambridge Analytica, Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI), mentioned the BJP, Congress and the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar as clients.

However, the Congress had immediately denied BJP allegations that it was misusing data. “Problem: 39 Indians dead; Govt on the mat, caught lying. Solution: Invent story on Congress & Data Theft. Result: Media networks bite bait; 39 Indians vanish from radar. Problem solved,” Rahul Gandhi had tweeted.

 

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