Union Minister has written to Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg expressing his displeasure on internal leaks from the social media giant’s India team to a foreign publication. The minister’s extraordinary angst over a social media company’s leaks came a day after the Wall Street Journal revealed more biases of Facebook’s public policy director, Ankhi Das, in favour of the BJP. The second report by the WSJ had revealed how Das may have compromised the 2014 elections in favour of Narendra Modi, who subsequently won a historic mandate to become India’s prime minister for the first time.
In his extraordinary letter, Prasad wrote, “The spate of recent anonymous, source-based reports is nothing but an internal power struggle with within your company for an ideological hegemony… No other logic and explain how facts are being spun by the selective leaks from within your company to try to portray an alternate reality. This interference in India’s political process through gossip, whispers and innuendo is condemnable.”
Although he did not name Das in his letter, his references to recent media leak amply established that the minister was expressing his displeasure on the WSJ report, which was based on internal communications of Facebook.
Prasad wrote, “This collusion of a group of Facebook employees with international media in giving a free run to malevolent vested interests to cast aspersions on the democratic process of our great democracy.”
[Also Read: Wall Street Journal’s investigation finds Facebook’s dirty links with BJP hatemongers, says Facebook executive Ankhi Das supported BJP leaders on Islamophobia, helped saffron party in 2019 elections]
Prasad also alleged that some employees of Facebook had openly abused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet ministers. He, however, did not presented any evidence to substantiate his allegations.
The Congress was quick to attack Prasad for his letter. Its chief spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted, “Finally, Cat’s out of bag ! Modi Govt comes to the rescue of prejudiced offenders of #Facebook India as the ugly nexus is exposed! Can the ilk of Ms. Anki Das hide behind Sh. Ravi Shankar Prasad & his lame duck letters in their defense?”
Finally, Cat’s out of bag !
Modi Govt comes to the rescue of prejudiced offenders of #Facebook India as the ugly nexus is exposed!
Can the ilk of Ms. Anki Das hide behind Sh. Ravi Shankar Prasad & his lame duck letters in their defense?
This is “pot calling the cattle black”. pic.twitter.com/apGbgOgfBx
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) September 1, 2020
This is “pot calling the cattle black”.
Prasad’s extraordinary anger over the ‘leak’ against Das came a day after the WSJ reported how Ankhi Das had written to a group of Facebook employees in India a day before Narendra Modi swept the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, “We lit a fire to his social media campaign and the rest is of course history,” she had reportedly written.
The WSJ also said in its latest report that it had accessed several posts by Das shared on Facebook’s internal communications systems that were perceived to be openly supportive of the BJP.
The report also revealed how Das had trained the BJP for its social media campaign for the 2012 Assembly polls. “‘Success in our Gujarat Campaign,’ Ms. Das wrote of the training of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party team in October of 2012, noting the campaign was close to reaching a million fans on Facebook,” the WSJ had reported.
According to the WSJ report, Das made sure that her support for the BJP was not hidden. “When a fellow staffer noted in response to one of her internal posts that the BJP’s primary opponent, the Indian National Congress, had a larger following on Facebook than Mr. Modi’s individual page, Ms. Das responded: ‘Don’t diminish him by comparing him with INC. Ah well—let my bias not show!!!’”
Reacting to the second report of the WSJ, the Congress had demanded that the pending licences of both Facebook and WhatsApp be put on hold and criminal inquiry initiated.