Facebook row is unelectable Left's desperate attempt to gag social media

The Centre needs to intervene at the policy level not to censor, but to make these platforms adopt transparency. The Narendra Modi government has long shied from acting on this.

Abhijit Majumder August 17, 2020 20:32:54 IST
Facebook row is unelectable Left's desperate attempt to gag social media

A couple of years ago, I created a digital media platform which captured India’s growing nationalistic voice. It started off with a lot of promise, one of the main sources of online traffic being Facebook users.

Then suddenly one day, that tap sputtered and went totally dry, traffic from it dropped by 94%. We were told our site was in violation of Facebook’s policy, but no specific reason was given in spite of repeated mails and calls.

At least two other sites with nationalistic leaning faced the same problem. The editor of the biggest nationalistic TV channel called me one day to say his digital platform had been censored by FB and traffic saw a 90 percent fall.

Around that time, Facebook approached Boom Live and Alt News, two ‘fact-checking’ platforms widely perceived as anti-Rightwing and as mainly targeting nationalistic politics led by Narendra Modi. Facebook finally ended up with Boom Live as its fact-check partner.

It was hard to not notice the pattern.

So, when the Left and so-called liberal ecosystem starts screaming about Facebook’s supposed pro-Modi bias after an anonymous source-based report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), one feels amused.

The Left, having proved itself unelectable worldwide, desperately seeks power from the backdoor – controlling academia, media, and now the increasingly powerful social media. Raising such bogeys is part of its efforts to stifle any strong contrary opinion or worldview. The failed mascot of India’s neo-Left, Congress dynast Rahul Gandhi, immediately latches on the WSJ report. But he never made a noise when the nationalistic handles repeatedly complained about political bias and shadow-banning by Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and Google. Shashi Tharoor did not seek a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe.

Why should we take WSJ on face value? It was caught reporting during the Delhi riots that IB man Ankit Sharma was killed by a mob chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ when he was actually murdered by a Muslim mob. Should we not question WSJ’s agenda in carrying this anonymously sourced item?

The rot lies much deeper. Transnational social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become immensely large and powerful and now hold themselves above laws of host nations. They are power players in global politics; almost unfailingly, anti-conservative and anti-nationalistic politics.

Also, instead of simply providing people an unjudgmental, neutral, apolitical platform, these have moved on to intervening, curating, editorialising. All the more reason laws of a land should apply on them.

And finally, they have stubbornly refused to be transparent about their algorithm and how they apply it on individuals. With such widescale allegations of shadow-banning, they cannot be allowed to continue with such opaqueness.

The government needs to intervene at the policy level not to censor, but to make these platforms adopt transparency. The Modi government has long shied from acting on this.

That vacuum of policy-making and implementation only provides room for the Left to deflect, disrupt, mislead and press for further gagging of independent and rival voices on the false pretext of fighting hate-speech.

Views are personal.

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