So, if a report on liberal American Journal WSJ is to be believed, Facebook is now being controlled by the BJP. The impartial social media giant, which happens to be the biggest social media platform in the world is busy appeasing the BJP to avoid incurring PM Modi’s wrath. The report quotes some named and some unnamed sources to build a solid case against Facebook as well as the BJP. When I went through the article, I was reminded of Bane’s dialogue from the movie The Dark Knight Rises – “Theatricality & deception. Powerful agents to the uninitiated; but we are initiated, aren’t we?” I have been running Facebook pages since 2012 and to an initiated individual like me, the whole article was nothing but little theatricality and lots of deception. The article conveniently disregards the social media giant’s dubious past, some of its ‘shady’ associates and associated agencies whose ideological biases are hidden from none.
In the month of July 2019, a new documentary hit Netflix India. It went by the title “The Great Hack”. The Netflix documentary was based on the massive controversy surrounding the now-defunct data intelligence company Cambridge Analytica. The show discussed how the company snooped over the private details of millions of internet users to aid their political clients. The show was well-received throughout the world but in India, the response to it was massive. And it was because the Palm (Symbol of the Indian National Congress) was seen on one of the walls of the Cambridge Analytica (CA) office. That basically marked the end of the Congress party’s lies. The party, led by its then social media chief Divya Spandana, had been vehemently denying the accusations about a possible Congress-CA Nexus till then but the documentary made them run for covers.
Indian press picking up that Cambridge Analytica worked for the Congress Party – and it’s causing a storm. Spotted hanging on the wall in Cambridge A’s office when I was there recently with @BBCTwo… https://t.co/2s0LEmw4QK pic.twitter.com/guw1EWgQf8
— Jamie Bartlett (@JamieJBartlett) March 28, 2018
It was common knowledge by then, that social media giant Facebook was CA’s partner in crime and CA on Congress’ payrolls directly translated into Facebook ‘happy to comply’ to Congress’ machinations. Most social media platforms are ‘liberal’ in nature and it’s a well-proven fact that conservative voices are suppressed on social media. But this was possible for the first time that there were clear proofs about an American Social Media portal helping an Indian political party in its bid to win an election. The news died as all news do.
A year earlier, Facebook had appointed Ajit Mohan as the managing director and vice-president of Facebook India. Ajit is a hot-shot corporate who had previously served as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Star India’s online video streaming platform Hotstar, as a consultant at Mckinsey and Company and had also written columns for Wall Street Journal. Additionally, Mohan had worked with the Ministry of Urban Development (now called the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development), the Planning Commission and the International Center for Research on Women under the UPA government. Certainly, Mohan must be a man of many talents, but his Congress links were hidden from none. It led to a huge uproar and Facebook’s credibility as an unbiased social media platform was questioned.
So Kochi born and Wharton educated Ajit Mohan who worked with a union ministry and Planning Commission under Sonia Gandhi led UPA will now join Facebook India as managing director and vice-president just before next General Elections of India pic.twitter.com/Xlk5dSYj3N
— Ravi Kant 🚩 (@LegalKant) September 24, 2018
And it’s not just Mr. Mohan, Congress leader and former cabinet minister Manish Tewari is on the board of Atlantic council which has been outsourced the job of eliminating political propaganda from the platform by Facebook. The council proudly described Mr. Tewari as “A respected counsel practicing in the Supreme Court of India, Tewari previously served as a member of parliament of India from Ludhiana and is currently the national spokesperson of the Indian National Congress.”
Facebook works in mysterious ways. When something good happens, the executives pat their own backs and in case of something bad, they accuse the black swan (something that does not exist). I say this with confidence as I have been a victim of Facebook’s reckless decision making. A month after Mohan took the reins of Facebook India in his hands, Facebook unpublished our official page. They blamed the black swan for it and assured cooperation. The page was reinstated after a lot of public pressure, almost a day later.
Facebook’s fact-checking is another level of biased, picking small little things in articles and branding entire articles as fake. And this behavior is reserved exclusively for conservative blogs. We were given a fake news strike in the month of May 2019 when the Indian General Elections were in full swing and Team TFI was working overtime to keep up with the pace of the biggest election on the planet. We lost access to Instant Articles and our reach almost hit zero. We haven’t been able to achieve the same level of virality since. BoomLive the FB approved fake news checker didn’t even read the article in its entirety before marking it fake. Here’s our response to the fake news strike. Worse, their response over e-mail was disrespectful and lacking every bit of courtesy. It took us 3 months to finally win the fight, but it was too late by then. Recently they gave us another strike for sharing an article that was perceived as fake. That article was from a syndicated Newsfeed. It took us another 11 days to sort out the issue.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – the way Facebook kills the reach of non-liberal pages is now the stuff of legends. Let us take TFI for example. Our reach has constantly decreased in the last 3 years and page likes have stopped growing since Jan’2020. As a matter of fact, we are losing the fan base that we painstakingly created over a period of 8 years.
So, BJP controlling Facebook is as impossible as Rahul Gandhi winning a general election on his own. There is a constitution and there are laws of the land. There is free speech and there is a limit to free speech. If Facebook is now formally complying with the laws, it can’t be dubbed as a nexus. It’s called conformity. And if any company doesn’t comply with the laws of the land, like TikTok or WeChat, the government of the day has every right to penalize it. It’s not the wrath of the Prime Minister but simply law enforcement. The WSJ story scores high on rhetoric and low on facts.