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The only way to ensure transparency on the part of Facebook is to put pressure on it to ensure fair treatment for people across the spectrum, said former Facebook employee Sophie Zhang, who earlier exposed the company’s partisan policy in removing inauthentic accounts from the platform ahead of the 2020 Delhi elections.

Zhang is among several former Facebook employees and contractors who have said that the company’s policies and management are leading to harm. Earlier this month, Frances Haugen sent a complaint to the US Securities and Exchange Commission citing internal documents that back some of these allegations.

In an interview with Hindustan Times, Zhang said that democracy cannot rest on a bed of lies. “Citizens of India need to make their voice heard if they feel content is been censored in a biased manner, in favour of a particular political party," she said.

Zhang in April revealed that Facebook had planned to take down a series of fake accounts ahead of the Delhi elections, but stopped when it realized a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician was behind one such network. “While two Congress, one Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and one BJP-linked IT cell-style networks were actioned, one was spared despite being repeatedly flagged," she said.

A network of 50-60 accounts run by a BJP Lok Sabha MP personally was identified, but despite concerns being raised repeatedly, the network was never removed. “There was one AAP-related network that curiously was also linked to a different cell supporting the Congress in a different state," she said. “These inauthentic accounts were removed. Two Congress and one BJP related networks were stopped," she said. The Congress and AAP did not respond to requests for comment. Amit Malviya, the BJP’s in-charge of the national information technology department, could not be reached despite repeated attempts.

Zhang said such networks of fake accounts work to create automatic content, likes, comments and posts in large numbers to promote a particular political party or individual.

In the US, the people who take decisions for the company are the ones responsible for keeping those in power happy, according to Zhang. “Political interference has always been a part of the company’s decision making," she said. “Refusal to take action against the BJP is part of the pattern. It is what the company does. We can’t blame individuals for it," she said.

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