Facebook ‘vested lobby’ working to ‘discredit India’s democratic process’: Prasad to Zuckerberg

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NEW DELHI: Amid a raging controversy over

political bias

and interference on

Facebook

at the behest of its senior Indian officials, the government on Tuesday wrote a hard-hitting letter to the social media giant’s founder

Mark Zuckerberg

, accusing employees of the company of “on record abusing” Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior Cabinet ministers and engaging in “collusion… to cast aspersions on the democratic process of our great democracy”.

The letter, written by telecom and IT minister

Ravi Shankar Prasad

, accused the company’s senior management of bias and said the platform was “hijacked by a vested lobby that abhors free speech and tries to enforce one worldview and rejects diversity”.

“It seems from credible media reports that the Facebook India team, right from the India managing director to other senior officials, is dominated by people who belong to a particular political belief. People from this political pre-disposition have been overwhelmingly defeated by the people in successive free and fair elections. 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. Facebook is the latest tool in their arsenal to stoke internal divisions and social disturbances,” Prasad wrote.

The letter marks the deepening differences between the government and the American social media giant, which is also facing a CBI inquiry over the Cambridge Analytica data breach episode. Facebook-owned instant messenger WhatsApp has also been under regulatory heat after a series of lynching incidents across the country which were partly blamed on viral and fake messages spread on its platform. WhatsApp has steadfastly refused to share the original source of the fake messages, saying user content on its platform is strictly encrypted.

Raising “serious concerns” over Facebook’s functioning, Prasad said its actions were going contrary to the company’s stated mission of giving people “the power to build communities and bring the world closer”.

“I have been informed that in the run-up to the 2019 general elections in India, there was a concerted effort by the Facebook India management to not just delete pages or substantially reduce their reach but also offer no recourse or right of appeal to the affected people who are supportive of right-of-centre ideology. I am also aware that dozens of emails written to the Facebook management received no response. The above-documented cases of bias and inaction are seemingly a direct outcome of the dominant political beliefs of individuals in your Facebook India team,” he wrote.

Prasad said while people working in organisations are free to carry their individual likes or dislik

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