Home/ Politics / News/  YouTube Looking Into Gandhi’s Claim Political Videos in India Suppressed

YouTube’s chief executive said in an email that the company is looking into a claim by Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi that the Alphabet Inc. unit is suppressing his videos criticizing India’s ruling party and a billionaire who controls a conglomerate accused of wide-ranging fraud.

The March 25 email from YouTube’s Neal Mohan, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, came in response to a letter sent two weeks earlier from the leader of a group of overseas Indians who support Mr. Gandhi’s Congress party.

The letter, which was reviewed by the Journal, included data from Mr. Gandhi’s social-media team making the case that his videos related to “the issue of cronyism of the ruling government with one industrialist, Mr. Gautam Adani," are receiving views that are significantly lower than YouTube analytics suggest they should be, and are being “suppressed, perhaps unwittingly and algorithmically."

The data, which was reviewed by the Journal, showed that based on interactions such as likes on two videos alleging Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given special treatment to the company headed by Mr. Adani, the Adani Group, the videos should have received about 2.8 million views combined, but instead got less than a third of that.

The data also suggested Mr. Gandhi’s videos are receiving fewer views because they are now recommended less frequently to users via YouTube’s home page, the letter said.

“Thanks," Mr. Mohan wrote in reply. “Team is taking a look," he wrote, without elaborating.

Representatives for Alphabet Inc.’s Google and YouTube didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Representatives for the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr. Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Adani Group didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Gandhi and other opposition parties have been pressing Mr. Modi’s government to investigate allegations of stock-price manipulation and fraud involving the Adani Group, which had worked closely with the government in modernizing airports, ports and other infrastructure.

U.S. short seller Hindenburg Research in January accused the energy and infrastructure conglomerate of improprieties such as using shell companies to manipulate its share prices. The Adani Group has denied the allegations.

Google, like other U.S. tech titans, has been in New Delhi’s crosshairs in recent years as Mr. Modi’s government has tightened rules on foreign e-commerce players and moved to tamp down online dissent on platforms such as Twitter Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook.

Google in January lost an appeal in India’s Supreme Court to block an antitrust order that requires it to make significant changes to the way its Android operating system does business with smartphone makers, app developers and users.

Mr. Mohan, previously YouTube’s chief product officer, became head of YouTube in February after longtime chief executive Susan Wojcicki stepped down.

Mr. Gandhi in 2021 wrote to Twitter Inc.’s chief executive alleging he was the victim of a government campaign to limit his ability to attract new followers on the platform. His account then began gaining new followers at a rapid clip.

India’s Parliament on Friday disqualified Mr. Gandhi as a lawmaker after a lower court convicted and sentenced him to two years in prison in a defamation case over remarks he made in a 2019 campaign speech referring to “thieves" as having the surname Modi.

Mr. Gandhi’s Congress party plans to appeal the conviction soon, according to party leaders. If the appeal is accepted, Mr. Gandhi would be able to retake his seat in the legislature.

Recommended For You
Get alerts on WhatsApp
Set Preferences My Reads Watchlist Feedback Redeem a Gift Card Logout