Union Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has asked social media giant Facebook to put in place country-specific community guidelines. In a letter written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, RS Prasad, who also happens to be the Law and Justice Minister, said that Facebook Community Guidelines must acknowledge Indian ethos. He underlined the religious, social, cultural and linguistic diversity of India, in the letter.
The Minister also raised his concern about the third-party fact checkers hired the social media platform. “A Major issue with Facebook is the outsourcing of fact-checking to third paty fact-checker. How can Facebook absolve itself of its responsibility to protect users from misinformation and instead out-source this to shady organizations with no credibility, ” Prasad wrote.
“We have seen in India that right from the assessors for on-boarding fact-checkers to the fact-checkers themselves, harbour publicly expressed political biases. Regularly vigilant volunteers on social media have to fact-check the fact-checkers! Even after on-boarding many fact-checkers, lot of misinformation related to COVID-19 and its aftermath went un-checked,” the minister added.
Prasad wrote to Zuckerberg after media reports stoked a controversy on the India team of the social media giant’s “political predisposition”. Earlier in the day, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi hit Facebook by tagging a recent media report on how questions were raised by Facebook employees on its India team’s neutrality after an executive posted internal messages allegedly favouring the BJP.
In a strongly worded letter, the minister detailed instances of bias by Facebook India against BJP and the right-wing in general. “As a transnational digital platform, Facebook must not only be fair, but also visibly seen to be so, to users of diverse beliefs and ideologies.
“Individuals working in any organisation may have their likes and dislikes but that must not have any bearing on the public policies and performance of the organisation,” Prasad wrote.
The letter came after the Congress attacked the Centre citing a media report claiming that Facebook executive Ankhi Das expressed support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the 2014 general election results.Prasad also expressed concern over the fact that “Facebook employees are on record abusing the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet ministers of India while still working in Facebook India and managing important positions.”Prasad’ letter to Zuckerberg took a dig at Sonia-Rahul saying “defeated elements are trying to use Facebook to undermine India’s democratic process.”
Talking about how Facebook India is dominated by people from Congress background, the Union minister wrote, “It seems from credible media reports 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. After having lost all democratic legitimacy, they are trying to discredit India’s democratic process by dominating the decision-making apparatus of important social media platforms.”
“The spate of recent anonymous, source-based reports is nothing but an internal power struggle within your company for an ideological hegemony,” he wrote talking about the latest controversy.
“International media have fully exposed Facebook’s and WhatsApp’s brazen assault on India’s democracy and social harmony,” Gandhi said on Tuesday. “No one, let alone a foreign company, can be allowed to interfere in our nation’s affairs. They must be investigated immediately and when found guilty, punished,” Gandhi tweeted.
WhatsApp, the popular messaging app, is also owned by Facebook.