Home / Corporate / BJP Told Facebook to Remove 44 Rival Pages Before 2019 Polls: Report

BJP Told Facebook to Remove 44 Rival Pages Before 2019 Polls: Report

FacebookPages flagged by the BJP that are on the platform include the official accounts of the Bhim Army, satire site “We Hate BJP”, unofficial Congress-supporting pages, and a page called “The Truth of Gujarat” sharing mostly Alt News fact checks.

NEW DELHI — Social media platform Facebook has been under serious scrutiny after the Wall Street Journal report presented its findings as favouring the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and “disparaging” its biggest rival Indian National Congress (INC).

The alleged role was played on the pretext of maintaining its business terms with the Indian government as suggested by public policy head of Facebook India, Ankhi Das.

Das, who is lenient towards the ruling ideology, has praised the PM as the “strongman” in the messages posted in the internal group between 2012 and 2014 as examined by the international journal. In the same group, she once said, “We lit a fire to his social media campaign and the rest is, of course, history”.

However, Facebook said that the posts were taken “out of context”. “These posts are taken out of context and don’t represent the full scope of Facebook’s efforts to support the use of our platform by parties across the Indian political spectrum”, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told WSJ. The “favour” to the ruling party came along with the “disadvantages” to its rivals, not only politically but also ideologically. According to a report published by The Indian Express, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in January 2019, the BJP flagged to Facebook India a list of 44 pages opposed to the party, claiming they were “in violation of expected standards” and carried posts “not in line with facts”. Out of them, 14 have been taken down.

Pages flagged by the BJP that are on the platform include the official accounts of the Bhim Army, satire site “We Hate BJP”, unofficial Congress-supporting pages, and a page called “The Truth of Gujarat” sharing mostly Alt News fact checks.

Of the pages taken down are sites in support of journalists Ravish Kumar and Vinod Dua.

Reportedly, one of the pages took the name of Postcard News founder Mahesh Hegde. He was arrested in Bangalore in March 2018 on charges of promoting communal enmity and outraging religious sentiments by posting “fake news”, according to the police at the time.

As per the media reports, Facebook India reinstated the 17 deleted pages and “monetised” two right-leaning news–The Chaupal and OpIndia — on the request of the BJP in November last year ahead of the January Lok Sabha polls by allowing them to receive ad revenue for their content. Facebook told the BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya that the pages were taken down “erroneously”.

Not only that, Facebook, on the request of Malviya, “shielded” some of the biggest BJP-supporting pages on the platform. However, A Facebook spokesperson said, “There is no term as shielding. We have a process called Cross-Check which is a system for reducing errors in enforcement by ensuring content from some pages and profiles is given a second layer of review to make sure we’ve applied our policies correctly.”

In its report, The Indian Express said that The Chaupal was a “news and media website” on Facebook, spending Rs 5 lakh in political advertisements since 2018 and followed by 10 million accounts. OpIndia’s official page is followed by 2 lakh accounts and has spent nearly Rs 90,000 on political ads from March to June 2019. “PMO India: Report Card” has spent almost Rs 1 lakh on advertisements and has 2 million followers.

Das, The Wall Street Journal reported, had objected to applying hate speech rules to at least four different pages or groups linked to the BJP. The WSJ has also published findings from internal messages “detailing Das’s support” for the BJP and “disparaging its main rival.”

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