- The report has become latest flashpoint between Congress and BJP
- Congress posted it as proof of BJP's alleged social media manipulation
- BJP, citing a data scandal, said Congress should not point fingers
An article by a foreign publication, alleging that Facebook overlooks hate speech by BJP leaders, became the latest flashpoint between the Congress and the BJP on Sunday. While the Congress posted the article as evidence of the alleged social media manipulation by the BJP, the ruling party cited the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and said the Congress should not point fingers.
In the article titled "Facebook Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics -- Company executive opposed move to ban controversial politician", the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook looks the other way in cases of hate speech and objectionable content from leaders and workers of the ruling BJP.
The Journal also reported that an executive of the social media giant had said punishing violations by BJP workers "would damage the company's business prospects in the country". Quoting current and former employees, the article said Facebook has a "broader pattern of favouritism" towards the BJP.
Congress's Rahul Gandhi -- who has been targeting the BJP every day on social media over its handling of the coronavirus, the state of the economy and the violence in Ladakh – tweeted:.
BJP & RSS control Facebook & Whatsapp in India.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 16, 2020
They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate.
Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook. pic.twitter.com/Y29uCQjSRP
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor also flagged the issue. "The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from @Facebook about these reports & what they propose to do about hate-speech in India," his tweet read.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who heads the communications department, was quick to retaliate with the three-year-old Cambridge Analytica issue.
Losers who cannot influence people even in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP & RSS.— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) August 16, 2020
You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica & Facebook to weaponise data before the elections & now have the gall to question us? https://t.co/NloUF2WZVY
The BJP's Kapil Mishra -- one of the leaders accused of hate speech ahead of the Delhi riots in February – also made the same point. "Seems Congress is blackmailing Facebook to hide some serious crimes... Cambridge Analytica scam is just tip of the iceberg of Congress manipulating opinions and freedom of expression in India," his tweet read.
In another tweet, Mr Prasad said today, "access to information and freedom of expression has been democratized". "It is no longer controlled by retainers of your family and that is why it hurts," he added.
In March 2018, a year before the general elections, the Congress and the BJP traded charges after it emerged that the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica -- a London-based data firm accused of accessing data of millions of Facebook users to help elect US President Donald Trump in 2016 -- could have links to elections in India.
Cambridge Analytica's website said the company provided its services during the Bihar election in 2010 to a political party in India. The website of the Indian affiliate of Cambridge Analytica, Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI), mentioned the BJP, Congress and the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar as clients.
The Congress had immediately denied BJP allegations that it was misusing data. "Problem: 39 Indians dead; Govt on the mat, caught lying. Solution: Invent story on Congress & Data Theft. Result: Media networks bite bait; 39 Indians vanish from radar. Problem solved," Rahul Gandhi had tweeted.