The Opposition INDIA bloc has penned letters to Meta's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, expressing concerns about the purported involvement of their social media platforms in "aiding communal hatred" in the country. The bloc of 28 political parties called upon these platforms to maintain neutrality in the forthcoming elections.
These letters were prompted by an article in The Washington Post that raised concerns about perceived bias on Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube in favour of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Sharing the letter to Zuckerberg on X, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said, "Letter by INDIA parties to Facebook's Mr. Mark Zuckerberg citing the exhaustive investigations by the Washington Post that Meta is culpable of abetting social disharmony and inciting communal hatred in India".
Well known to us, raised it several times: INDIA bloc
Alluding to the alleged "blatant partisanship" by Facebook India executives towards the ruling dispensation, the letter read, "This was well known to us in the Opposition for a long time and have even raised it several times in the past.”
The letter further stated that the opposition has data showing algorithmic moderation and suppression of Opposition leaders’ content on these social media platforms while also promoting ruling party content.
According to the bloc, this bias towards one political formation by a private foreign company tantamounts to interfering in India’s democracy. They said that it was ironic that the parties had to write the letter on the birth anniversary month of Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest champion of non-violence and social harmony in history.
In their letter to Google’s Pichai, the bloc referred to another report by The Washington Post titled, “He live-streamed his attacks on Indian Muslims. YouTube gave him an award”, which talked about the role of YouTube in propagating communal hatred in India. The letter said that it was very clear that "Alphabet and specifically YouTube is culpable of abetting social disharmony and inciting communal hatred in India".
In light of these reports, the INDIA bloc demanded the CEOs for their operation in India to remain neutral and not to be used wittingly or unwittingly for "causing social unrest or distorting India’s much cherished democratic ideals".
What did The Washington Post report allege?
The Washington Post's report highlighted the presence of a "parallel campaign" by the BJP, distinct from its official social media activities. Through extensive interviews with BJP staff, campaign consultants, and party supporters, the report alleged the party's confidential partnerships with content creators responsible for overseeing so-called "third-party" or "troll" pages.
The report delved deeper into Meta, the parent company overseeing WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. It highlighted the recurring allegations of insufficient efforts to curb the dissemination of inflammatory content by Meta and the company's perceived leniency towards BJP leaders, who breached its terms, potentially in order to protect its business interests.
As per the report, during the investigations and interviews with employees, it was indicated that Facebook executives often refrained from taking action against the BJP or related accounts, even when leaders openly advocated for violence.