New Delhi [India], September 1 (ANI): Amid row over Congress allegations of Facebook's "complicity" in favour the BJP, Union Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has written a letter to the chief executive of the social media company saying that he has been informed of "a concerted effort" by Facebook India management "to not just delete pages or substantially reduce their reach but also offer no right of appeal to affected people who are supportive of the right-of-centre ideology" in run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The letter said that it seems from credible media reports that Facebook India team, right from the India Managing Director to other senior officials, "is dominated by people who belong to a particular political belief".
"People from this predisposition have been overwhelmingly defeated by the people of in successive free and fair elections. After having lost all democratic legitimacy, they are trying to discredit India's democratic process by dominating the decision-making apparatus of important social media platforms," said the letter to Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg.
"I have been informed that in the run-up to 2019 General Elections in India, there was a concerted effort by Facebook India management to not just delete pages or substantially reduce their reach but also offer no recourse or right of appeal to affected people who are supportive of the right-of-centre ideology. I am also aware that dozens of emails written to Facebook management received no response," the letter added.
Prasad said it is "problematic" when Facebook employees are on record "abusing the Prime Minister and other senior cabinet ministers" while still working in Facebook India and managing important positions.
"It is doubly problematic when the bias of individuals becomes an inherent bias of the platform. And it is unacceptable when political biases of individuals impinge on the freedom of speech of millions of people," he said.
The minister said that despite having many fact-checkers on board, misinformation regarding COVID-19 is being spread on the social media platform "and its aftermath went unchecked".
"Even after onboarding so many fact-checkers, lot of misinformation related to COVID-19 and its aftermath went unchecked. How can an organisation like Facebook be oblivious to these realities?
Pointing out instances where Facebook has been used "by anarchic and radical elements whose sole aim is to destroy social order, to recruit people and to assemble them for violence", Prasad said that "meaningful action against such elements is yet to be seen".
"A major issue with Facebook is the outsourcing of fact-checking to third-party fact-checkers. How can Facebook absolve itself of its responsibility to protect users from misinformation and instead out-source this to shady organisations with no credibility. We have seen in India that right from the assessors for on-boarding fact-checkers to the fact-checkers themselves harbour publicly expressed political biases," he said.
The minister said that the tech giant's India office must put into place country-specific community guidelines.
"A certain act which may be acceptable as per social norms in a particular country but may not be conducive to the social norms of another country. Facebook Community Guidelines must acknowledge this aspect of diversity and respect it. To respect the social, religious, cultural and linguistic diversity of India, Facebook should put in place country-specific community guidelines," the minister said.
"I hope that you are cognizant that this experiment should not be allowed to be hijacked by a vested lobby that abhors free speech and tries to enforce one world view and rejects diversity," he said.
Congress has been alleging "quid-pro-quo" relationship between Facebook and the BJP and has written to letter Zuckerberg seeking information about steps the company is planning to take to investigate the matter. (ANI)