New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) The Congress on Saturday once again attacked the Narendra Modi government nexus with Facebook’s WhatsApp saying it is allegedly being controlled indirectly by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the matter.
The Congress also demanded that WhatsApp should not be given the permission for starting its payment services until the probe is not completed.
Addressing a press conference here, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said: “The unholy intimacy between social media giant Facebook’s India operations and the Narendra Modi-led BJP government is now unravelling fast and is no longer just an India issue but a global one.”
Citing a media report published in an international publication, the Congress leader said, “A reputed global publication has revealed that even WhatsApp, which is used by 40 crore Indian citizens is compromised and ‘controlled indirectly’ by the BJP.
Pointing at the relations between Facebook and WhatsApp executives with the BJP, Khera said, “Beyond just Ankhi Das, what has now been revealed exposes that another senior executive, Shivnath Thukral of Whatsapp, is an unabashed devotee of the ruling establishment and was partisan in his professional conduct.”
“The expose reveals Thukral was hired by Facebook in 2017 only because he was extremely close to the ruling establishment. It elaborates that Thukral’s relationship with the ruling party goes as far back as 2013 when he operated websites and Facebook pages for the 2014 election campaign in conjunction with other BJP affiliates who continue to hold senior positions in the current government,” Khera added.
The Congress leader also alleged that documents accessed by the media house shows that it was a “deliberate plot” to keep the relation between a Facebook page and the BJP hidden in order to get greater volunteer participation.
“It was in 2014 that this ‘Mera Bharosa’ Facebook page changed its name to ‘Modi Bharosa’, and thus started sharing pro-BJP and pro-Modi content,” Khera alleged.
Khera also said: “In May 2020 the former chief security officer of Facebook, Alex Stamos tweeted saying ‘local policy heads are generally pulled from the ruling political party and are rarely drawn from disadvantaged ethnic groups… This naturally bends decision-making towards the powerful’. This is a ringing endorsement of Facebook’s dubious operational practises and lobbying efforts.”
Targeting the central government, the Congress leader said: “Whatsapp, as you all know has become the lifeline for the vicious and malicious propaganda of the BJP ecosystem. In fact it is now the mainstream tool of misinformation.”
He said that now Whatsapp wants 40 crore Indians to not use it just for communication but for making payments as well. “That is how Whatsapp can earn revenue and its future in India is dependent on this payment feature. This would be a multi-billion dollar initiative for which Whatsapp needs Modi government’s approvals and permissions. This is where it gets murky,” he said.
Firing salvos at the government, Khera said: “Can 40 crore Indians trust Whatsapp which is indirectly controlled by one political party? What is the assurance that bank details, transaction details and private data of 40 crore Indians using Whatsapp is not being shared with the BJP and misused?”
The Congress said that it has become amply clear that Facebook India and the BJP are all-weather friends.
“When Prime Minister Narendra Modi tells his MP’s to get minimum 3 lakh likes on their Facebook pages, Facebook reciprocates to this by not taking down hate speeches of BJP leaders and promoting the BJP’s social media ecosystem. The tacit collusion between Facebook and BJP has betrayed the trust of 130 crore Indians,” Khera alleged.
The Congress demanded three things from the Modi government.
Khera said, “Congress demands that there needs to be an exhaustive and unbiased investigation by a JPC between the unending links of Facebook employees and the ruling establishment.
“The investigation must include how Facebook manipulated voter opinion, allowed hate speech and was oblivious to fake news, even when they were in clear violation of their regulations.
Khera also demanded that Whatsapp cannot be granted approvals for its payment operations until the inquiry is complete and the recommended actions are taken by the company, besides also making the report of the “so called investigation” ordered by Facebook international into the conduct of Facebook India public.
Earlier, a political row erupted between the Congress and the BJP over the Facebook’s close ties with the BJP. Congress General Secretary K.C. Venugopal wrote to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, demanding to know the steps being taken by Facebook to investigate the serious charges that have come to light.