Facebook bans BJP leader, responds to Congress party


Facebook said it had suspended a politician of India’s ruling party from its platform, and responded to letters from the Opposition Congress party Thursday, a day after an Indian parliamentary panel grilled Ajit Mohan, the social media giant’s India head.

Facebook, like in a few other countries, finds itself in the middle of a raging controversy in India over alleged political bias and not doing enough to curb hate speech and incitement of violence.

Thursday, a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying that the platform had taken action against T Raja Singh, BJP state legislator from Telangana.

“We have banned Raja Singh from Facebook for violating our policy prohibiting those that promote or engage in violence and hate from having a presence on our platform,” the statement said.

The Congress party has alleged that Facebook India is pro-BJP, the charge leveled after The Wall Street Journal and Time magazine reported that the social media giant turned a blind eye to hate-mongering by leaders and functionaries of Indian rightwing parties.

A statement issued Thursday by Praveen Chakravarty, chairman of the Congress party’s data analytics department said: “Facebook has acknowledged its seriousness while not refuting any of the charges made against individuals of the Facebook India leadership team in the media articles.”

He added: “They have also expressed their desire to be non-partisan and continue to engage with the Congress party on these matters.”

The party said it would await further concrete action from the global leadership of Facebook and demonstration of “specific corrective measures being undertaken in Facebook and WhatsApp India”.

There have been a number of news reports highlighting how the communal violence in Delhi earlier this year was coordinated via WhatsApp.

The Congress party August 18 wrote a letter to Facebook Inc expressing concern and asking them to acknowledge the issue and take corrective action. The party had raised alarm over “interference in India’s internal affairs by a foreign company”.

“This is not a political issue. This is about India’s democracy and use of digital weapons to disrupt India’s social order by a foreign company, at the behest of certain individuals in their leadership team,” said the letter written by Congress party leader KC Venugopal.

The party declined to comment on the issues raised in the parliamentary panel meet but alleged that the ruling BJP has become a spokesperson of Facebook in the country.

The Congress, whose member Shashi Tharoor is the chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on information technology, has repeatedly raised what it calls “unholy nexus” of the ruling BJP with Facebook and WhatsApp.