A report by The Wall Street Journal about the bias of social media giant Facebook for the Bharatiya Janata Party has caused a furore. While Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said that the BJP “controlled” Facebook, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad proceeded to call him a loser.
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha Elections in 2019, NewsClick had published a series of five reports on Facebook’s role in our electoral democracy, diving much deeper into how the social media company had lobbied its way to a position of power in the Indian political landscape. The series was co-authored by Cyril Sam and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
The authors investigated Facebook’s activities in India and interviewed nearly 50 people for the series of reports which were published between November 22 and November 26, 2018.
Here is a brief summary of what their stories said:
In the first article, the authors elaborated on the complicity of Facebook and WhatsApp in spreading disinformation and hate speech which led to incidents of mob lynching in different parts of the country. The article also mentioned how while some ‘media’ outlets are free to propagate any manner of misinformation and lies, the reach of outlets critical of the establishment was limited.
The second part of the series elaborates on how Facebook came to be in the dominant position it currently is in India, with the help of friends and supporters of Prime Minister Modi; people behind the ‘Friends of BJP’ and ‘NitiCentral’, online portals which would spread the BJP’s word far and wide.
In the third report, the authors dig into the key individuals with links to the BJP who helped in propagating his party’s right-wing Hindu nationalist agenda on social media platforms.
In the fourth article, the authors looked at the Congress party’s relations with Facebook, the questionable activities of Cambridge Analytica in India and, among other things, an allegation of possible conflict of interest pertaining to a senior employee of Facebook in India (Ankhi Das).
The fifth and final article laid bare the crisis confronting one of the world’s biggest internet conglomerates set up just over a decade ago. A detailed list of 64 pointed questions to Facebook elicited a predictable and fuzzy response.