In a fresh attack on the ruling BJP, the Congress on Saturday has written to the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for details on steps being taken to investigate the allegations that it does not apply hate speech rules to the post of BJP members.
The controversy aroused after the WSJ reported that Facebook refused to apply hate speech rules to certain BJP politicians, while the social media giant has asserted that its policies are enforced globally without regard to political affiliation.
In the letter, Congress party said, “We urge you to let us know what steps your company is planning to take to investigate these matters… will also be pursuing legislative and judicial actions in India to ensure a foreign company cannot continue to cause social disharmony in our nation for pursuit of private profits.”
Earlier, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal, in a separate letter, had alleged a “quid-pro-quo relationship” between Facebook India and the ruling BJP.
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has also raised the issue over twitter referring to an article by TIME magazine. “America’s TIME magazine has revealed the WhatsApp-BJP nexus. In India, 40 crore people use WhatsApp and now WhatsApp wants to come in the money-transfer Apps industry also. For this, permission is required from the Modi government. This is the reason for the nexus.”
अमेरिका की टाइम मैगज़ीन ने WhatsApp-BJP की साँठ-गाँठ का खुलासा किया:
40 करोड़ भारतीय WhatsApp इस्तेमाल करते हैं और अब WhatsApp चाहता है कि उससे पैसों का भुगतान भी किया जाए। इसके लिए मोदी सरकार की स्वीकृति की ज़रूरत है।
इसलिए, BJP की WhatsApp पर पकड़ है।https://t.co/ahkBD2o1WI
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 29, 2020
The Congress in its letter has also mentioned the article of TIME magazine by saying, “The ‘Time’ Magazine’s story raises two very important alarms. It tell us that the partnership and the bias of Facebook India’s leadership is not limited to just one person, but, it is much more wide spread and rampant within Facebook India’s team. Number two, in return for some Government approvals, licenses and permissions for its business operations, such as WhatsApp Pay.”
“WhatsApp has allowed itself to be controlled by the ruling party and has turned a blind eye to hate and fake speeches, thereby tearing the fabric of India social harmony. As responsible citizens of the country, we must all ask, can we turn a blind eye to the disruption of India’s social harmony and interference in India’s electoral democracy by an American company that is in pursuit of profits,” it added.
The letter also alleged foul-play by another employee of the social media giant apart from Ankhi Das, Facebook executive in India, who was at the centre of the crisis.
“Beyond just Ms. Ankhi Das, what has now been revealed exposes that another senior executive, Mr. Shivnath Thukral of Whatsapp is an unabashed devotee of the ruling establishment and was partisan in his professional conduct,” it said.
“The expose reveals Mr Thukral was hired by Facebook in 2017 only because he was ‘extremely close’ to the ruling establishment. It elaborates that Mr.Thukral’s relationship with the ruling party goes as far back as 2013 when he operated websites and Facebook pages for the 2014 election campaign in conjunction with other BJP affiliates who continue to hold senior positions in the current government,” it said.
“Can 40 crore Indians trust Whatsapp which is indirectly controlled by one political party? What is the assurance that bank details, transaction details and private data of 40 crore Indians using Whatsapp is not being shared with the BJP and misused?” Congress asked Facebook through the letter.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera and AICC data analytics department chief Praveen Chakravarty have called for an exhaustive and unbiased investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee between the unending links of Facebook employees and the ruling establishment.
“The investigation must include how Facebook manipulated voter opinion, allowed hate speech and was oblivious to fake news, even when they were in clear violation of their own regulations,” they said in a statement.
“WhatsApp cannot be granted approvals for its payment operations until the inquiry is complete and the recommended actions are taken by the company,” the party said.