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IT minister writes to Zuckerberg, accuses FB India team of political bias

Ravi Shankar Prasad alleges Facebook India team 'impinged' on beliefs of Indians

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Ravi Shankar Prasad | Facebook

Sai Ishwar  |  Mumbai 

Mark Zuckerberg
Prasad also objected to Facebook using third party fact-checkers, alleging the outsourcing had led to misinformation about Covid-19

Union IT Minister on Tuesday wrote a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg raising “serious concerns” regarding the social media platform becoming a tool to create social disturbances in the country.

The letter comes in the wake of allegations against that it is biased towards the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In the letter, Prasad accused the California-headquartered company of deleting pages that supported right-of-centre ideology in the run-up to the 2019 elections and not offering right of appeal against such action.

Prasad said that top management in Facebook India team, from managing director to other senior officials, was dominated by people having a particular political ideology referring to media reports. The political biases of these individuals, according to Prasad, “impinged” on the freedom of speech of millions of people.

“The spate of recent anonymous, source-based reports is nothing but an internal power struggle within your company for an ideological hegemony,” Prasad wrote in the letter.

“No other logic can explain how facts are being spun by the selective leaks from within your company to portray an alternate reality.”

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Referring to recent instances in which the social media platform was used to incite violence, Prasad accused Facebook of inaction. The IT minister said that the social media site was used by "anarchic and radical elements" whose sole aim was to destroy social order by recruiting and assembling people for violence.

The letter stated that Facebook employees were on record abusing the Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers of India while still working in the company and managing important positions. "It is doubly problematic when the bias of individuals becomes an inherent bias of the platform," the letter added.

The Wall Street Journal had published a report last month in which it mentioned that the tech giant had overlooked its hate speech policies in the cases of Telangana BJP MLA T Raja Singh and three other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups” in order to safeguard the social media platform’s business prospects.

The Journal article also stated that one of Facebook’s top public policy executives in India “opposed applying hate-speech rules” to individuals linked with the BJP despite being flagged internally for promoting violence. Prasad also raised issues on Facebook’s fact-checking policy and said it outsources this job to third party. The exercise has led to lot of misinformation related to Covid-19 and its aftermath go unchecked, he added.

Meanwhile, the Congress party had also written to Zuckerberg twice in August asking him to specify the steps being taken by Facebook to investigate the charges against its operations in India.

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First Published: Tue, September 01 2020. 20:15 IST
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