Union IT minister accuses Facebook of bias, demands country specific community guidelines

Union IT minister accuses Facebook of bias, demands country specific community guidelines
RS Prasad (Left) and Mark Zuckerberg  |  Photo Credit: Reuters
2 Sep, 2020

Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday wrote a strongly worded letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, demanding that the social media platform put in place country specific community guidelines. 

The letter also accused Facebook employees of abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior cabinet members on record, stating that Facebook India’s managing director and other senior officials subscribe to a “particular political belief”, which lost the elections to ruling BJP. 

For the record, Ajit Mohan, former CEO of video streaming service Hotstar, was appointed the first Facebook India managing director in 2018. 

The latest development comes a day before Facebook representatives are set to appear before a parliamentary committee on IT to address allegations of favouring the ruling party by not taking down hate speech posted by BJP members. The allegations were published in an article by the Wall Street Journal in August. 

The article said that Facebook India’s public policy head Ankhi Das opposed applying hate speech rules, which form a part of Facebook’s content moderation, to BJP MLA T Raja Singh’s posts, citing “political fallout” with the ruling government. 

The letter written by Prasad to Zuckerberg also accused the company of selective leaks by employees of the company and collusion with international media, “... giving a free run to malevolent vested interests to cast aspersions on the democratic process of our great democracy”.

The letter also questioned Facebook’s decision to outsource work to third-party fact checkers, criticising the social media platform for relying on “shady organizations with no credibility” for protecting users from misinformation.

As of April 2019, Facebook had seven fact checking partners in India, the highest across all its markets. The list included publishing groups India Today, The Quint and AFP India, apart from Fact Crescendo, Factly and Newsmobile Fact Checker. It had launched the fact checking programme pilot in 2018 in India with Boom and Vishwas.news.