(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
A report appears in Wall Street Journal (WSJ). It names Ankhi Das, the policy head of Facebook in India as sympathetic to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She is accused of allowing “hate speech” from the party’s leaders or supporters on the Social Media platform. Unnamed Facebook employees have spilled these beans. The Indian parliamentary IT panel, headed by Congress’ Shashi Tharoor, which also has Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) Mohua Moitra, are straining at the leash. The great idealists that they are–never mind they work for parties which are dictatorial—are sleepless at this assault on their professed principles.
Here, certain things don’t add up. The provocation of this report is recent Bengaluru riots. The implication is that the ugly violence was sparked off because Facebook let go a “hate-speech” against Muslims. The WSJ doesn’t name its sources which it claims are from the Facebook India fold itself. However, it has no qualms in naming and shaming the policy head of the Social Media giant.
It’s now known, through a piece by BJP’s IT cell head Amit Malviya, that if anything, Facebook is teeming with anti-BJP voices. It’s managing director is Ajit Mohan, who was a Planning Commission guy during the UPA days. Sidharth Mazumdar of Facebook’s public policy team, was once Sonia Gandhi’s strategist. Manish Khanduri, who headed news alliances for Facebook, had contested the 2019 general elections on a Congress ticket. But Ankhi Das, the policy head, is a BJP sympathizer, never mind her family is “aligned to the Trinamool Congress.” And if these names don’t ring a bell, this one would do: Manish Tewari, Union I&B minister under UPA, is on the board of Atlantic Council, which handles the job of eliminating political propaganda on Facebook.
It might bore you but a couple of sentences must not miss your attention. In the run-up to 2019 General Elections, Congress had engaged Cambridge Analytica. This company was in the business of weaponizing Facebook data and algorithms to influence elections around the world. Documents were submitted in UK parliament by a whistleblower in 2018 that Cambridge Analytica had worked for Congress party in India. Congress had been caught red-handed.
Doesn’t it beg a question if Facebook is pro-BJP or in fact pro-Congress? Just look at the names who are deleting their Facebook accounts in the last few hours: Nidhi Razdan, Swati Chaturvedi, KC Singh etc. They all are part of Left-Liberals. To me it looks a concerted attack.
Readers, now, let me pose a simple question: If Ankhi Das alone pulls all the strings and is aligned to BJP, how did the Sonia Gandhi go Live on Facebook, where she was on her “aar-ya-paar-ki-ladai” exhortation mode to Muslims, which was followed by Delhi riots killing 59 this February? If Facebook is biased in favour of BJP, how has Asaduddin Owaisi, “the champion of hate-speech” and Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani could whip up thousands of followers on Facebook?
Who do you think is now the policy manager of Facebook? One who has perhaps used the vilest of language against the BJP and the prime minister Narendra Modi. This man is also abusive to Indian army. Does it look to you that Facebook leans towards BJP or Congress? Now we learn that Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is summoning Facebook officials to probe their role in the Delhi riots. Doesn’t it make you appear that a lion (BJP) is being hunted down by wolves?
And please don’t be fooled that Facebook once deleted accounts of Congress sympathizers. Or that Ankhi Das was a proof Facebook was supporting BJP. This is a common mode how you cover your tracks. Arguments which you could always throw at your investigators. You throw a few useless, like Ankhi Das, under the bus to appear pious. Meanwhile, parley with big matrons in the background.
Readers you would now say how does it concern you? It of course concerns you a hell of a lot. You are using Social Media platforms which has banned a strong anti-Left-Liberal voice like Dr Anand Ranganathan on twitter. All for quoting a verse from Quran. Do we need to remind how many times True Indology has been banned on twitter? Do we need to recount the hate posts which were made against Kamlesh Tewari for mentioning the Prophet Muhammad and nothing happened to them?
All this is to let you know that your Social Media platforms are rigged. Nobody knows how their algorithms work. First came the Indian newspapers with monopoly on news and ideas. Then it was democratized with the onset of internet. Now we have same monopolistic roaches, teeming on the floor, which decide who comes in into the kitchen and who stay out. The powers of this world have always wanted to rule the humanity. Whenever masses are empowered, these monsters strike back.
You and I thus stand no chance. The only hope are those who want truth at all costs. It could be you, me or a few of our brave websites. The ones who also hope that one day Indian state and its brightest would work out new Social Media platforms which we could call our own.
Till then, suffer. But fight.
Times of India in its editorial today has cried bucketful on the “harmful” influence of social media on the “news-professionals” like them, and other mainstream media. It offers a sanguine advice to Facebook to wake up to the “fake and misleading news that are downright fabrications.” The edit writer has no doubt that the US polls have been influenced by false information posted as “news” on social media.
For too long news professionals—of which I was a part for three-decades and more—have believed that they know best. For large part of my career I was an international cricket writer and believed only insider knows what’s happening. There was an air about me which suitably got punctured when CricInfo came on to the scene. There was initial mocking, disdain which turned into grudging acceptance to downright admiration for their language, insight and imagination in due course. Men like Rahul Bhattacharrya, Dileep Premchandran and Sidharth Monga earned deep respect with their work.
Sport was one such instance. There were separate fields like politics, social commentary, historical references which began receiving fresh winds of change. Many of us “professional news” gatherers began picking up the minds on social media. Our copies were better for it; our insight only got richer. Most of my fellow print journalists reading this piece would admit, if they are honest, that a lot of their “reporting” happens on the phone only. This claim to being “professionals” is so stupid. At least 99 per cent of we “professional journalists” wouldn’t have read 10 books in our lifetimes.
The Times of India edit increasingly begin pontificating. It says that social media may lead to “medievalisation” of the global community. “It would give spurt to tribal instincts—in the form of racism, xenophobia or communalism—that is exploding around the world.”
Really, how stupid you can get. Newspapers at best offer a bridge of communication between public and public institutions. It ought to put both viewpoints in perspective. But the mainstream media of today completely eschews this role. In its worldview, the unheard must not be heard; the unspoken must not be allowed to speak. The “have-nots” of this world have no reason to question the “haves” to which the modern media is a part. These ivory towers of the world are increasingly being smashed as BrExit and US polls reveal how removed they are from reality. The credit for it squarely goes to “social media” where people are connecting, sharing information and forming their own opinion. You look at our newspapers and you would know who is promoting “racism” and “communalism.”
So troubled are mainstream media with their shaken foundations that they refuse to examine the evidence that is out there in open in social media. For example there is this piece which completely exposes Arvind Kejriwal in a sting operation called K-files. But you wouldn’t find our mainstream media taking it up. Or that most of our mainstream journalists are offered “cushioned” posts by the Delhi government. Again, you wouldn’t hear a murmur. There are pointed referrals to how mainstream media is giving disconnected headlines with the text. NewsBred has relentlessly exposed this “misinformation” and “spreading of lies” but you would never find a Times of India putting the lens back on its tribe.
The NewsBred links below would offer dozens of such deliberate “misreporting” and “twisting” of facts. If this is what Times of India has in mind by way of “professionalism” the readers are better off without it. The mainstream media is increasingly becoming not worth of our time and certainly not of our money. This closed shop has crumbled but the rats can’t feel the boiling water in the tub.
The so-called “news professionals” are just sound-byte carriers. They go to the source which is likely to offer them the point of view they wish to publish or telecast. Unlike in social media where the news and information is more rigorously debated and evidence is provided with. Every opinion is open to challenge on social media. Unlike the closed shop that mainstream media has become. Mainstream Media is in deep shit and they know it.
Times of India ends its piece by urging Facebook, Twitter and Google to put a limit on social media. This is the same newspaper which cried hoarse when former Union Minister Kapil Sibal tried to put a restriction on facebook and twitter. The “freedom of expression” doesn’t concern them now.