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Monday, November 28, 2022

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad takes FB to task

In a strongly worded two page letter, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has taken Facebook (FB) to task over the political bias row.

Prasad has cited how despite stating that connecting people through networking as one of its objectives, employees of FB are allowing their personal bias to censor views and opinions put out by people belonging to the right-of-centre ideology.

Ravi shankar prasad

He pointed out several pages were either deleted or had restrictions placed on their reach in the run-up to the 2019 general elections only because they believed in an ideology that those employees of FB leaning towards the left disagreed with.

In the said letter, Prasad has also raised the issue of outsourcing fact-checking to shady third-party organizations that lack credibility. He has also said that FB cannot absolve itself of its responsibilities by engaging ‘fact-checkers’ who are known to publicly harbour biased views.

His letter reads “we have seen in India that right from the assessors for on-boarding fact-checkers to the fact-checkers themselves, harbour publicly expressed biases. Regularly vigilant volunteers on social media have to fact-check the fact-checkers”!

He reiterated the point that FB must not just claim but also actually be seen to be fair and neutral to users of diverse beliefs and ideologies. Furthermore, he has pointed out how despite claiming to have fact-checkers on board a lot of misinformation regarding the current pandemic situation was allowed to be shared on its platform.

He has also said that being a transnational platform, FB was duty-bound to harbour sensitivities while adding that a certain act may be acceptable as per the social norms of a particular country but may not be acceptable in another and that FB community guidelines must both acknowledge and respect this diversity.

He also asked for country-specific community guidelines to be put in place considering the cultural, religious and other differences in each country. He concludes by stating that since FB has emerged as a platform for ordinary citizens to voice their views, the same must not be allowed to be hijacked by a lobby with vested interest “that abhors free speech and tries to enforce one world view and rejects diversity”.

The letter has been written in its capacity as the Union Minister of Law, Justice, Communications and Electronics and Information Technology. While it remains to be seen what response this letter would elicit from FB and its founder Mark Zuckerberg to whom it has been addressed, it is pertinent to point out here that BJP’s IT Cell head Amit Malviya had raised the issue of FB staffer’s bias in June this year.

In his letter, Malviya had made serious allegations of one of the public policy managers of FB, with the primary mandate to interface with the government and BJP, misusing his position and leaking confidential information on social media.

Disgusted with his private communication being leaked to the media, Malviya also pointed out that the said employee’s tweets were not just in bad taste but also publically portrayed his hatred for the Prime Minister (PM), Union cabinet ministers as well as the BJP with which he was supposed to liaison as a relationship manager.

While the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report, for which Congress leader Shashi Tharoor headed parliamentary committee has summoned FB representatives, alleged that FB India policy head Ankhi Das was favouring the ruling party, the fact remains that the left which is used to having its way and controlling the ecosystem has attempted to control both FB and Twitter to a large extent.

Readers may recall that even President Trump had alleged social media platforms being biased against the conservatives and favoring the left. Leftist control of media is a global issue and the irony is that they claim to be the champions of ‘free speech’ where only they are allowed to speak freely.

Hindupost itself has been a victim of FB’s biased policy as FB has threatened to unpublish us from its platform alleging a violation for using an image used by several media outlets almost an entire year after the supposed violation is said to have taken place.

(Featured Image Source: Live Mint)

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