New Delhi: The Congress on Friday alleged that Facebook was being used as a weapon by the BJP to spread hate and fake news in the country and demanded that a JPC probe be conducted on the issue and laws be enacted to restrict Facebook and WhatsApp.

The party also alleged that India’s democracy is being manipulated by an American technology company and demanded that it hold an independent inquiry into the issue.

Congress leaders Rohan Gupta and Praveen Chakravarty said at a joint press conference that it is time Facebook stopped being used as a weapon by the BJP to spread hate that threatens the country’s unity.

The Congress also wrote to Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg and asked him to conduct an independent inquiry to probe charges of hate speech and fake news being spread through Facebook and WhatsApp in India.

“I strongly urge you to conduct an internal enquiry into the functioning of Facebook India and release the findings to the public. It is your responsibility as the head of this organisation to hold those responsible for betraying our people accountable for their actions,” Gupta, who heads the social media department of Congress, said in his letter to Zuckerberg.

“Facebook has become a weapon of the BJP in spreading hatred in the country…There is an attempt to attack the unity of our country and everyone has to understand this and fight it together,” he told reporters here.

“We demand from Facebook an independent inquiry into the hate speech being spread through Facebook in the last two years and why Facebook reduced its budget for identifying hate speech, and why action was not initiated on issues raised internally on the issue by its own employees,” Gupta also said.

Chakravarty, who heads the AICC Technology and Data cell, said this issue about Facebook is a very serious one and everyone has to fight it together.

Citing an internal report statement, he said that after the Pulwama terror attack “an average Facebook user in India has seen more images of dead people in their Facebook account than they saw in their entire lifetime on Facebook”.

This is besides what is happening on WhatsApp, which is private, he said.

“The world’s largest democracy is being manipulated by an American technology company. This is not anymore about the Congress or the BJP or even politics. This is about the sanctity of our democracy. This is about India and Indians. Are we going to accept this sort of control of our society by foreign technology companies?,” Chakravarty asked.

Noting that it is time to come together as a nation and resist this, he said, Parliament which is elected by the people of India has a responsibility to act on this issue.

“A JPC must be set up to probe into this issue, as we have previously asked for. The Parliamentary Standing Committee must summon Facebook and other executives to investigate this, just as they have done in other democracies like the US and the UK. And, laws must be legislated to restrict Facebook and WhatasApp in India,” Chakravarty said.

Gupta said the country’s trust is being betrayed by Facebook. He also said people of the country are also demanding answers from the BJP for using social media players to spread hate.

He also alleged that Facebook has undermined its own team’s internal report and reduced the budget for controlling hate speech even when such content has increased 80 per cent in the last few months.

Facebook used only 9 per cent of its budget to stop and check hate speech in its content, especially in Hindi speaking India, he alleged.

In his letter to Zuckerberg, Gupta said there is an apparent and evident bias that the company has shown in India towards the ruling dispensation despite their proclivity for sharing hate speech, misinformation, fake news and inflammatory content on your platform.

He said there is evidence that points to the negligence of Facebook in controlling this hate speech and deliberately ignoring internal documents raising concerns over the same issues.

“It has also been revealed that your cost cutting approach towards hate review led to a drastic and rapid increase in such content over the last two years,” he said, adding that it is unfortunate that Facebook continues to favour its business interests over the lives and safety of your users in a country which has over 370 million users.

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