Congress writes again to Mark Zuckerberg, quotes ‘Time’ magazine article on BJP-Facebook relationship
Congress wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Saturday for the second time in a fortnight, asking what action the social media company had taken to investigate allegations that his Indian team ignored the speech policy of hatred to avoid ruining his relations with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Quoting a report published by the Time magazine on Thursday, Congress Secretary-General KC Venugopal said the BJP had been authorized to exercise control over Whatsapp’s operations in India. Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, also owns WhatsApp, the most popular social messaging app in India. “The future of WhatsApp as a payments application in India hinges on final approval from the national payments regulator, which is still pending,” the report said.
In a letter, Venugopal said the new article raised “alarming” points and violated the law of operations of foreign companies in the country. “We are now forced to write to you again in such a short period of time due to additional information and revelations made public in another article from another reputable and credible American media,” he added. “More than one person in your company’s management team in India is one-sided and partisan of the ruling BJP in its professional endeavors. Perception is broader, deeper, and more pervasive than initially thought.
The Secretary General of Congress, whose last letter was written on August 18, referring to another report published by The Wall Street Journal, accused the Indian WhatsApp team of allowing the messaging app to spread hate speech and “tear the Indian fabric of social harmony”.
Venugopal said Congress will also pursue legislative and judicial actions in India to ensure that a foreign company cannot cause social discord. “We urge you to let us know what steps your company plans to take to investigate these issues and develop an action plan to stem the decay of your operations in India,” the letter said.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said the Time magazine article exposes “WhatsApp-BJP link”. The company’s main platform, Facebook, along with its messaging app, WhatsApp, is essential for political messaging in India due to their unmatched reach.
“Used by 40 million Indians, WhatsApp also wants to be used to make payments for which the approval of the Modi government is required,” Gandhi tweeted. “So the BJP has a grip on WhatsApp.”
At a press conference in Delhi on Saturday, Congress leaders Pawan Khera and Praveen Chakravarty said the Time The magazine’s story reveals that WhatsApp is under the indirect control of the Saffron Party. “In the past 10 days, the close relationship between BJP and Facebook has come to light,” they said.
“Every Indian has the right to choose which holiday to like, but personal biases cannot be allowed to interfere with professional conduct, especially powerful and monopoly media platforms such as Whatsapp,” Chakravarty said. “The Time magazine story raises 2 important alarms. This tells us that the partnership and prejudices of the Whatsapp India management team are not confined to one person, but are much more widespread and endemic.
Khera said WhatsApp has become the BJP’s “lifeline for vicious and malicious propaganda” and a mainstream disinformation tool, ANI reported. “WhatsApp wants 40 million Indians not to use it just for communicating, but also for making payments,” he added. “This is how WhatsApp can generate income and its future in India depends on this payment feature. This is said to be a multibillion dollar initiative for which Whatsapp needs approvals and permissions from the Modi government. This is where it gets cloudy. “
Khera said a “full” and “impartial” investigation by a joint parliamentary committee should be conducted to investigate the matter.
“Beyond Ankhi Das, what has now been revealed reveals that another senior executive, Shivnath Thukral of Whatsapp is a shameless staunch supporter of the ruling establishment and was partisan in his professional conduct,” he said. -he adds. The exhibit reveals that Thukral was hired by Facebook in 2017 only because he was ‘extremely close’ to the ruling establishment. He clarifies that Thukral’s relationship with the ruling party dates back to 2013 when he was operating websites and Facebook pages for the 2014 election campaign in conjunction with other BJP affiliates who continue to hold leadership positions in the current government.
The WSJ article published on August 14 sparked controversy after reporting that Ankhi Das, Facebook’s top public policy official in India, had opposed the idea of removing inflammatory posts from BJP leaders , warning that it could harm the company’s “business interests” in India. . Das also did not disclose that Facebook had removed the fake news pages related to the saffron festival, according to the report.
However, Facebook said it banned hate speech inciting violence and enforced policies regardless of political position or party affiliation. On August 21, Facebook India director Ajit Mohan said he would remove content even from Indian public figures if they violated his “community standards.”
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology summoned representatives from Facebook for a discussion on September 2 on allegations of non-enforcement of hate speech rules against BJP leaders. The Delhi Assembly panel on Peace and Harmony also decided to summon Facebook officials.
It also emerged that the BJP was the number one advertiser on Facebook on “social issues, elections and politics” for the past 18 months, according to Facebook’s ad spend tracker.