Tried to raise content manipulation issue with FB, WhatsApp: Congress

Supriya Shrinate
Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Monday claimed that it has many times tried to raise the issue of content manipulation with social media platforms Facebook and WhatsApp, but in vain.

The Congress said it tried to raise the issue with them as early as 2018, much before it was revealed by the US-based newspaper. The matter has also been discussed several times during internal party meetings. The party raised the issue with the platforms several times and cited cases of clear bias and presented evidence also. ‘The executive of the social media platforms feigned ignorance and promised to look, but in vain, ‘ said the party.

Congress data Analytics Department Chairman Praveen Chakravorty had flagged the issue with the officials of the company, “I met with Facebook’s Global Head of Government relations and elections on 17th July 2018 in America and discussed the issue of bias and partisanship of their India team. I was told this would be looked into, but nothing happened, ” said Praveen Chakravorty.

The party said that on October 12, 2018, Praveen Chakravorty with party colleagues again met with Facebook India’s head of government relations. “In that meeting, we highlighted how Facebook India is blocking the Congress party and denying permission to put ads on Facebook regarding the Rafale issue, ” added Chakravorty. He said he also met the global CEO of Whatsapp and raised concerns over fake and hate speech spreading unchecked through Whatsapp.

The Congress social media department head Rohan Gupta wrote a mail in April this year, “We are deeply worried about the rise of hate speech, misinformation, communal posts and fake news on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The matter was raised in the recent meeting of the Congress Working Committee, Chief Ministers of opposition ruled states and senior Members of Parliament.”

The party said that a meeting with Facebook officials took place on May 15, but they did not take any action.

“It’s not just a Congress or a BJP issue, it is an issue where the social media platform allows hate to fester, allows divisiveness. Instead of questioning the WSJ article and having the courage to refute anything that it says, the government and its spokespersons are attacking the Congress party, ” said Shrinate

The party said that Facebook has removed the pages and issued press releases, whether in the US or Turkey, citing ‘Coordinated inauthentic behaviour’ but why has Facebook never done something similar with a rumour mongering and hate speech in India. There is enough and more objectionable content that exist on its platform, some of which incites violence, some of which is abusive against women, some of which targets particular communities and groups, said the Congress.

Keeping up the pressure on Facebook and WhatsApp, the Congress has said that any platform that undermines the Indian democracy by indulging in hate mongering must not be spared. Individuals, organisations and platforms, including Facebook should be held accountable and questions should be raised.

Addressing a press conference virtually on Monday, party spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said Facebook also has different ‘rules’ for different countries and that is not acceptable. The rules for India are dramatically different and are bent as per their convenience. In Singapore, while deposing before policy makers FB said they were a platform and can’t take down content brought to notice.”

The Congress on Monday reiterated its demand for a JPC probe.

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