Report suggests Facebook gave fillip to Modi's election campaign
The Wall Street Journal on Monday published what the American newspaper said were excerpts from internal communications of Facebook officials that suggest that the social media company had helped the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by lighting “a fire to his (Narendra Modi’s) social media campaign and the rest is of course history”.
Also on Monday, a Delhi Assembly panel probing Facebook’s alleged role in the February 2020 riots that killed 53 people said the company should be made a co-accused in the police investigation, after hearing deposition that alleged that the social media network had “sheltered hate against minority communities”.
The Journal, a New York-based financial daily, reported in an article titled “Facebook Executive Draws Scrutiny on Political Stance” that the social media behemoth’s public policy chief for South and Central Asia, Ankhi Das, had in messages to colleagues in a Facebook group said a day before the BJP was elected to power in 2014 that they had helped Modi become Prime Minister.
The Journal reported: “In one of the messages, Ankhi Das, head of public policy in the country, posted the day before Narendra Modi swept to victory in India’s 2014 national elections: ‘We lit a fire to his social media campaign and the rest is of course history. ‘It’s taken thirty years of grassroots work to rid India of state socialism finally,’ Ms Das wrote in a separate post on the defeat of the Indian National Congress party, praising Mr Modi as the ‘strongman’ who had broken the former ruling party’s hold. Ms Das called Facebook’s top global elections official, Katie Harbath, her ‘longest fellow traveler’ in the company’s work with his campaign.”
The Journal continued: ‘“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….
“Ms Das made her sentiments on the race clear. 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!!!’”
Contacted by The Telegraph, a Facebook spokesperson in the US echoed what the company has said in the Journal report on Monday: “These (Das’s) 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 in 2014. Facebook’s public policy team operates with integrity and any suggestion that their efforts are motivated by partisanship discounts their hard work every day.”
On Monday, the Delhi Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony said, after hearing several journalists and Internet experts who have deposed before it, that “Facebook should be impleaded as co-accused in the Delhi riots investigation”.
The committee said in a statement: “Sh. Awesh Tiwari (a journalist) has deposed that the complicity of Facebook is not only limited to aggravation in Delhi riots but (the company also) has been consistently sheltering hate against minority communities since a very long time. He has further asserted before the committee that Facebook essentially refuses to take down the hateful and divisive