Rigged Facebook

Facebook, the most prominent and prevalent social media platform in India, with 346 million active users in India alone. But, Facebook who has previously been accused of meddling with the 2016 US elections, now has been accused of actively working with political parties of Brazil, the U.K, and India, allegedly using troll armies to spread misinformation and extremists ideologies. Under Katie Harbath, a former Republican digital strategist, Facebook helped politicians across the world harness their digital tools to establish an online presence. Narendra Modi, the world’s most-followed leader on Facebook and Instagram, was one of the most famous politicians all thanks to social media. The Bloomberg report that revealed these details also alleged that after Modi’s social media reach grew, his followers began using Facebook and WhatsApp to harass political rivals. WhatsApp, which has approximately 400 million users in India, has been an influential tool in BJP’s election campaign, as admitted by union minister Amit Shah in his 2018 speech. This all came to limelight after on 14th August an investigation made by WSJ revealed that a top public policy executive at Facebook was allegedly ignoring controversial, often communal, content posted on the platform by politicians from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  WSJ spoke to current and former employees at Facebook and found that the social media platform’s Public Policy Director for India and Central and South Asia, Ankhi Das, was against “applying hate-speech rules” to at least four politicians from the BJP, despite them being “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence”. These include BJP leaders T. Raja Singh, who made communal statements on Rohingya Muslims and threatened to raze mosques, and legislator Anantkumar Hegde, who accused Muslims of intentionally spreading the novel corona virus as part of a conspiracy so called “Corona Jihad”. Now, this has led to a political beef in the country. According to what anonymous Facebook employees told WSJ, the social media giant showed a “broader pattern of favouritism” towards the BJP, and felt that punishing violations by their politicians “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”. Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, admitted to WSJ that Das, who is also the public policy director for South and Central Asia, was worried about the political fallout of restricting BJP leader Singh. Facebook employees had flagged Singh’s statements on social media under the “Dangerous Individuals and Organisations” policy, which is meant to ban any content that praises or supports “organized hate”, “mass murder”, “hate crimes”, or “terrorist attacks”.  But the WSJ allegations add weight to the findings of past reports by international and local media. Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Shashi Tharoor, who also heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, promised that the committee would look into the allegations made by the report. When the committee called for a probe into the matter, union minister of Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad hit out at Congress through a tweet, calling Gandhi a “loser”. He also brought up an old accusation from 2018, claiming that Congress had colluded with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to influence the electorate during the 2014 elections. Also, Privilege motion was moved against Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor alleging that Rahul Gandhi had “surpassed all limits of decency” while Shashi Tharoor is responsible for spreading “Fake News and hatred”. This is the usual blame game that BJP uses to play while facing allegations. In spite of answering the questions directly, BJP uses malicious ways to get around the question and indulge the proponent in trivial tasks. Whereas  Cambridge Analytica’s website declared that the company provided its services during the Bihar election in 2010 to a political party in India. Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI), Cambridge Analytica’s Indian affiliate, named the BJP, Congress and the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar as clients. Claims are many but we must be responsible for what we see and how we react to the contents of social media. One should act responsibly and instead of spewing hate in the comment section, one should introspect and try to make judicious decisions. There is no tool that can counter fake news only us, we are the ones who spread fake news and can counter it.