Facebook hate speech: Congress writes to Zuckerberg; demands internal probe

Facebook hate speech: Congress writes to Zuckerberg; demands internal probe

In an attempt to up the ante over allegations of Facebook showing bias in regulation of content with regard to some BJP leaders, the Congress on Tuesday wrote to the head of the social media platform Mark Zuckerberg, seeking a high level inquiry into the functioning of its leadership team in India and publishing all instances of hate speech posts since 2014 that were allowed on the portal.

In a letter e-mailed to Zuckerberg, the chairman and CEO of Facebook, AICC General Secretary in charge of Organisation K.C. Venugopal wrote that while the party was deeply disturbed to read the Wall Street Journal article that discusses the alleged bias in Facebook with regard to the ruling establishment, it had not come as a surprise revelation. “The Congress party has repeatedly raised the issue of bias with many executives of Facebook and Whatsapp. In one of such meetings, I also participated and raised multiple concerns to mostly deaf ears,” wrote Venugopal.

He pointed out that other political parties have also raised this issue in Parliament, and a detailed investigative story on Facebook’s India operations was carried out in November 2018 by another news organisation that detailed several other individuals in the social media giant’s India leadership team and their alleged proximity to the ruling establishment. “We believe it is still not too late to course correct and make amends. The starting point for a remedial action is a thorough and impartial investigation and inquiry into the Facebook India operations and practices,” said Venugopal.

He suggested the setting up of a high-level inquiry by Facebook headquarters into the Facebook India leadership team and its operations and submission of the report to the board of Facebook Inc within a reasonable period of time such as one or two months. He said the report should be made public.

Venugopal said Facebook should publish and make transparent all instances of hate speech posts since 2014 that were allowed on the platform. “The WSJ article mentions hate speech of at least three other politicians that were wilfully permitted by Facebook India. On a closer perusal, you will find thousands of such insidious posts,” he said.

He also said that until the completion of the internal investigation and submission of the report, Zuckerberg should consider putting a new team in charge of Facebook India operations so as not to influence the investigation. “We sincerely hope that you will give this issue the utmost priority for resolution and win back the trust and confidence of the 400 million Indians that use Facebook and Whatsapp,” Venugopal wrote.

The principal opposition party has sought to raise the political pitch on the issue by demanding a probe by a parliamentary committee.

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