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Facebook controversy gains political heat, to come under parliamentary panel's scrutiny

As the controversy started to heat up, BJP came out in its defence and alleged that Rahul Gandhi was unable to influence his party leaders and was blaming BJP-RSS of controlling everything.Premium
As the controversy started to heat up, BJP came out in its defence and alleged that Rahul Gandhi was unable to influence his party leaders and was blaming BJP-RSS of controlling everything.

  • Shashi Tharoor has announced that he would be taking up this issue in the parliamentary committee
  • 'BJP and RSS control Facebook and Whatsapp in India. They spread fake news and hatred through it.. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook,' tweeted Rahul Gandhi on Sunday

The controversy over the alleged influence of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Facebook after a news report by US based Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has increased as the main opposition party, Congress, has now launched attack on the union government blaming it was making efforts to control social media. It gained further political heat on Sunday with the battle reaching standing committee on information technology which is likely to take it up for scrutiny.

One of the first attack on the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on the basis of the story was former Congress president and political rival Rahul Gandhi who made allegations against the BJP along with its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of influencing electorate through its control on social media platforms.

“BJP & RSS control Facebook and Whatsapp in India. 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," tweeted Gandhi on Sunday.

"We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation. While we know there is more to do, we're making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy," said a Facebook company spokesperson in an emailed response to Mint.

Taking a step forward in this direction and building more pressure on the union government, Congress leader and chairman of standing committee on information technology Shashi Tharoor has now announced that he would be taking up this issue in the parliamentary committee.

“The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from @Facebook about these reports and what they propose to do about hate-speech in India. Our Parliamentary committee will, in the normal course, consider testimony under the topic. “Safeguarding citizens’ rights & prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms". The subject is squarely within the IT committee’s mandate and Facebook has been summoned in the past," tweeted Tharoor while replying to Gandhi.

Tharoor’s bid to raise the issue in the parliamentary panel was however not without his committee colleagues belonging to BJP like Lok Sabha MP Tejasvi Surya demanding that the issue of Facebook’s censoring of voices should also come under scrutiny. “Many have complained that Facebook is unfairly censoring many nationalist, pro-India or pro-Hindu voices. As member of Standing Committee on IT, I will take it up with concerned in appropriate forum," he tweeted on late Sunday evening adding that any related concerns could be emailed to him.

As the controversy started to heat up, BJP came out in its defence and alleged that Gandhi was unable to influence his party leaders and was blaming BJP-RSS of controlling everything.

“Losers who cannot influence people even in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP & RSS. You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to weaponise data before the elections & now have the gall to question us?," tweeted Ravi Shankar Prasad, union minister for Law & Justice, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology Minister.

Earlier in the day, to step up pressure Congress held a press conference over the issue where it demanded that an investigation should take place in the matter. “Facebook and Whatsapp control information, news and communication for hundreds of millions of Indians. And the BJP controls Facebook and Whatsapp in India…Over the past few years, we had consistently raised the issue of bias and nexus between Facebook’s India leadership team and the BJP," Praveen Chakravarty, senior Congress leader and head of party’s data analytics department said in a press conference on Sunday.

Saumya Tewari contributed to this story

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