India's Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has accused the social media platform Facebook of suppressing material posted by right-wing users and being biased against the government.
In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Prasad claimed that ahead of last year's elections in India, there was "a concerted effort by Facebook ... to not just delete pages or substantially reduce their reach but also offer no recourse or right of appeal to affected people who are supportive of right-of-center ideology."
"This interference in India's political process through gossip, whispers and innuendo is condemnable," Prasad wrote on Tuesday.
The minister's intervntion comes a few weeks after a Wall Street Journal article caused a political row in India by making the opposite claim: that Facebook showed a pattern of favoritism towards India's governing party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
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According to the WSJ, current and former Facebook employees have said the platform's top policy official in India, Ankhi Das, had prevented anti-Muslim hate speech from being removed. They claim Das has openly supported the BJP.
The WSJ report also claimed that Facebook failed to take down posts containing hate speech against Muslims by a Hindu nationalist lawmaker out of concern for its business interests in India.
Questioning in parliament
Following the report, a parliamentary committee summoned Facebook representatives to testify about the company's policies on Wednesday.
The opposition Indian National Congress has also accused the social media giant of favouring the BJP. The party said in a statement Tuesday that there was a "blasphemous nexus between the BJP and Facebook."
Facebook's Indian head, Ajit Mohan, has defended the company's actions and denied any bias. "We take allegations of bias incredibly seriously and want to make it clear that we denounce hate and bigotry in any form," he said in a statement soon after the controversy began
According to another report in Time magazine, Facebook has already commissioned an independent report on its impact on human rights in India.
bk/dj (Reuters, AFP)