Following a new Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report which alleges Ankhi Das, Facebook‘s public policy director for India supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi through internal posts between 2012-14 and disparaged Congress, the latter has called for a ‘thorough enquiry’ on the social media giant.
“We are waiting to hear from Mark Zuckerberg on the matter. The latest WSJ report shows Ankhi Das’ bias is quite visible. Such executives have no right to continue in their position and a thorough enquiry is needed,” said Rohan Gupta, chairman, social media department for Indian National Congress (INC).
Highlighting posts on Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress from Ankhi Das’ Facebook page, Amit Malviya, national head, information and technology for BJP tweeted: “How come the mandarins at WSJ keep missing Ankhi Das’ posts on AAP and Trinamool Congress and keep harping on her perceived bias for BJP?”
According to the WSJ report that came out on Sunday, Das posted the following message the day before prime minister Narendra Modi swept to victory in the 2014 general elections: “We lit a fire to his social media campaign and the rest is of course history.”
Social media campaigners for INC for the 2014 and 2019 general elections said if there is evidence pointing to an internal collusion, it needs to be investigated, but they didn’t personally see any favouritism being meted out by Facebook executives to BJP during the election campaigns.
Kapil Gupta, CEO of OMLogic Consulting said he worked on the social media campaign for Congress at a national level in 2014, and didn’t hear or see anything that pointed to a bias towards BJP. “The only thing I saw was a lot of pro Modi pages got merged and other admins lost access to their pages. BJP was ahead of Congress in terms of their core understanding of platforms. But, if there was collusion by certain Facebook individuals, it should be investigated,” he said.
Naresh Arora, director of DesignBoxed, who worked on INC’s digital campaign for the 2019 general elections said Facebook tried to come across as an entity which was a little more ‘serious’ about being misused last year.
“In that quest, they did put in place some measures around ad transparency etc. They hired a lot of people to manually scan political posts. I didn’t see any bias. But if there were certain messages that insiders like Ankhi Das were promoting, and if the fairness of the platform was tampered with, it’s a matter of investigation. Did it tamper with the fair, level playing ground that EC boasts of giving everyone. That needs to be seen,” said Arora.
According to the WSJ report, some Facebook employees said the sentiments and actions described by Das conflicted with the company’s long standing neutrality pledge.
“It has taken thirty years of grassroots work to rid India of state socialism finally,” she wrote in a separate post on the defeat of INC praising prime minister Modi as a ‘strongman’, according to the report. As per the report, Facebook said the posts by Das don’t show inappropriate bias and have been taken out of context.