Law Minister Prasad urges Zuckerberg to protect FB from 'a lobby that abhors free speech'

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Sep 01, 2020, 07.07 PM(IST)

Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (File photo) Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

Prasad said that Facebook has been a novel experiment in democratising the expression of people and giving platform to millions of citizens to freely express their views

Indian Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on September 1, amid reports of the company’s selective filtration of content, where certain voices were amplified while others were stifled.

Prasad said that Facebook has been a novel experiment in democratising the expression of people and giving platform to millions of citizens to freely express their views. "This experiment should not be allowed to be hijacked by a vested lobby that abhors free speech”, he said.

Also read: Facebook 'transparent, non-partisan', says India head amid political controversy

“I’ve been informed that in run up to 2019 Lok Sabha Polls, there was concerted effort by Facebook India to not just delete pages or substantially reduce their reach but also offer no right of appeal to affected people who're supportive of right-of-centre ideology”, he wrote.

The letter by Prasad highlighted instances of bias by Facebook against the incumbent Bharatiya Janta Party. Prasad said that leaks in media about Facebook are a result of an internal ideology war in the company.

Ravi Shankar Prasad added how Facebook India was dominated by people with a certain ideology. 

Also read: India parliamentary panel to question Facebook on content controversy: Source

Through “selective leaks” from within the company, the ideology war within the company was ignored, he suggested. He added that media reports prove that the company is run by people “who belong to a particular political belief”. “As a transnational digital platform, Facebook must not only be fair and neutral, but also visibly seen to be so, to users of diverse beliefs and ideologies”, he added.

A report by the Wall Street Journal among many US outlets claimed that Facebook had been amplifying pro-government voices in India.

Owing to such allegations, Facebook’s representatives will appear in front of a parliamentary committee on September 2. The committee will be headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

Facebook India on August 21 said the platform is "open, transparent and non-partisan" where people are allowed to "express themselves freely".

"Facebook is and always has been an open, transparent and non-partisan platform where people can express themselves freely. Over the last few days, we have been accused of bias in the way we enforce our policies," Facebook India Vice President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan had said in a blog post. 

"Our Community Standards define what stays on our platform and are enforced globally... We enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone's political position, party affiliation or religious and cultural belief. We have removed and will continue to remove content posted by public figures in India when it violates our Community Standards," he wrote.

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