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New Delhi, September 1, 2020
Amid severe criticism of Facebook and the BJP-led Union Government over the reported collusion of Facebook India executive Ankhi Das and the ruling party, the Union Minister for IT and Electronics has written a hard-hitting letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg blaming the Facebook India management for alleged bias against people supporting the right-of-centre ideology.
He wrote that as a transnational digital platform, Facebook must not only be fair and neutral, but also "visibly seen to be so, to users of diverse beliefs and ideologies".
Prasad, who also holds the Communications portfolio, said: "I have been informed that in the run-up to 2019 General Elections in India, there was a concerted effort by 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."
He said that dozens of emails written to Facebook management received no response.
Describing the instances as bias and inaction, the Minister said that it is the outcome of the "dominating political beliefs of individuals in Facebook India team".
Interestingly, the development comes a day after the Opposition Congress attacked the Centre citing a media report which claimed that the Facebook executive Ankhi Das had expressed support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the 2014 general election results.
The Congress on Monday demanded a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) and a criminal investigation against the company's executives in India. The party said the interference by the social media giant 'is an assault on India's electoral democracy'.
Prasad, on the other hand, wrote to the Facebook CEO that individuals working in an organisation may have their individual likes or dislikes, but that must not have any bearing on the public policies and performance of the organisation.
Citing "credible" media reports, Prasad, who is also India's Law Minister, said that Facebook India team, right from the India Managing Director to other senior officials, is dominated by people who belong to a "particular" political belief.
Pointing towards the Indian National Congress, he wrote: "People from this political predisposition have been overwhelmingly defeated by the people in successive free and fair elections."
He suggested that the Opposition is trying to discredit India's democratic process by dominating the decision-making apparatus of important social media platforms.
Facebook is the "latest tool in their arsenal" to stoke internal division and social disturbances, alleged the Union Minister.
He also said that it is problematic when Facebook employees are on record abusing the Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers while still working with Facebook India at important positions.
Saying that a certain act may be acceptable as per social norms in a particular country but may not be conducive to the social norms of another country, he advised that the Facebook Community Guidelines acknowledge this aspect of diversity and respect it.
"To respect the social, religious, cultural and linguistic diversity of India, Facebook should put in place country-specific Community Guidelines," the letter said.