- Ravi Shankar Prasad has written a letter to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg
- Facebook has been used by anarchic and radical elements, he says
- Yet to see any meaningful action against such elements, he adds
In the middle of a huge controversy over reports alleging that a Facebook executive was biased towards members of the ruling BJP and did not act on incendiary posts, the government has written to Mark Zuckerberg alleging quite the opposite.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a sharp letter to the Facebook founder, alleged that employees of the social media giant "are on record abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior cabinet ministers" while still working in Facebook India and managing important positions.
There have been "multiple instances recently where Facebook has been used by anarchic and radical elements whose sole aim is to destroy social order, recruit people and assemble them for violence. However, we are yet to see any meaningful action against such elements. Is this action also held back by the same vested interest groups who have an incentive in stoking political violence and instability in India?" Mr Prasad wrote.
The IT minister wrote he had been told that in the run-up to the 2019 election, "there was a concerted effort by the 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".
Mr Prasad cited "credible media reports" that the Facebook India team, right from the managing director to other senior officials, "is dominated by people who belong to a particular political belief".
Without naming the Congress, he added that "people from this political predisposition have been overwhelmingly defeated in successive free and fair elections. Having lost all democratic process by dominating the decision-making apparatus of important social media platforms. Facebook is the latest tool in their arsenal to stoke internal divisions and social disturbances."
The minister's allegations have added to the raging political row over US media articles suggesting Facebook's bias while dealing with posts from members of the BJP and the rightwing. A report published in the Wall Street Journal said the social networking site did not apply hate speech rules on members of the ruling party. In a second report, WSJ alleged that Ankhi Das, head of public policy in Facebook India, "made internal postings over several years" detailing her support for the ruling BJP and disparaging its main rival Congress.
Facebook officials have been asked to appear before a parliamentary committee headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor today to answer questions on these reports.
The minister, in an apparent reference to the reports, wrote that it seemed "deeply entrenched vested interests aren't satisfied with the shrinking space of one side of the spectrum in India and wants to throttle it completely."
Calling the reports an "internal power struggle" within Facebook, Mr Prasad said: "No other logic can explain how facts are being spun by selective leaks from within your company to try and portray an alternate reality."
The "interference in India's political process through gossip, whispers and innuendo is condemnable. This collusion of Facebook with the international media is giving free run to malevolent vested interests to cast aspersions on the democratic process of our great democracy," he wrote.
Urging the CEO to bring in country-specific community guidelines, Mr Prasad called Facebook a novel experiment in democratizing the expression of people "that should not be allowed to be hijacked by a vested lobby that abhors free speech and tries to enforce one world view."