The Congress on Saturday demanded for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the alleged links of Facebook with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and wrote to Zuckerberg urging him to investigate the allegations of a ‘BJP-FB nexus’ by ‘reputed American media publications’.
K C Venugopal, the Secretary-in-charge of Congress, wrote a letter to the tech giant for the second time this month to investigate the allegations on the company for being biased towards the ruling party. This letter comes after an article was published in the Time Magazine which according to Rahul Gandhi exposed the Whatsapp-BJP nexus. Gandhi shared the article on twitter and tweeted, “America’s TIME Magazine exposes Whatsapp-BJP nexus: Used by 40 Crore Indians, Whatsapp also wants to be used for payments for which Modi government’s approval was needed. Thus, BJP has a hold over Whatsapp.” Whatsapp the popular messaging app is also owned by Facebook. Earlier this month, an article making similar allegations was published in the The Wall Street Journal.
The Data Analytics Department Chief Praveen Chakravarty said, “Why are ministers and MPs rushing to defend an American company against revelations by other American media publications? This only lends credence to the revelations made about the nexus between BJP and Facebook in India.” He went on to say, “Time Magazine tells us that in return for some government approval, licenses, and permissions such as Whatsapp Pay, Whatsapp has allowed itself to be controlled by the ruling party, turned a blind eye to hate and fake speech, thereby tearing the fabric of India’s social harmony.”
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera in a press conference demanded that the investigation be made public and asked for an assurance regarding the data security of 40 crore Indian users before Whatsapp be given the license to start its payment operations ‘Whatsapp Pay’ in the country. He named a Senior Executive of Whatsapp Shivnath Thukral who was hired by Facebook in 2017 for being close to the ruling establishment and who, said Khera, happens to be a devotee of BJP and thus is partisan in his professional conduct. Khera has alleged that Thukral was involved in operating Facebook pages and websites in 2013 for the election campaign in 2014. In his address, Khera also cites a tweet by Alex Stamos who is former Chief Security Officer at Facebook which said that it is natural for a company to favour the ruling party while making decisions.
In the letter to Zuckerberg, Congress has cited the earlier letter which was sent on 17th August. 2020 and seeks to draw his attention to the article in Time Magazine which suggests ‘evidence of bias and a quid-pro-quo relationship of Facebook India with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’. The letter mentions three points made in the article which are ‘alarming and violate both the spirit and the law of operations of foreign companies in India’.
The three points are- BJP allowed to exercise control over Whatsapp India’s operations in return for a possible license for its payment operations; More than one person in the company’s leadership team is biased and partisan in favour of the BJP in their professional endeavours; Whatsapp has been willingly allowed by the India team to be used to appropriate hate speech and the consequent tearing of India’s fabric of social harmony.
Congress in its letter urges to know about the steps being taken to investigate these allegations. The letter ends with a strongly worded warning which says that it will be pursuing legislative and judicial actions to ensure that a foreign company does not ‘continue to cause social disharmony’ for its ‘private profits’.