Facebook in India

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Allegations of political bias


Anam Ajmal, September 1, 2020: The Times of India

A report in the Wall Street Journal newspaper claims that a day before the BJP swept to victory in the 2014 general elections, Facebook public policy head in India, Ankhi Das, sent out an internal message to the company’s employees writing, “We lit a fire to his social media campaign and the rest is of course history.” Facebook, however, said that the posts were taken “out of context”.

Das, who has been in the middle of a political storm for allegedly “favouring” the ruling dispensation, had also “disparaged” the BJP’s main rival, Congress. “It’s taken thirty years of grassroots work to rid India of state socialism finally,” she wrote on the party’s defeat. The WSJ examined messages posted in an internal group between 2012 and 2014. In one of them, she praised the PM as the “strongman” who had broken the former ruling party’s hold. Facebook said the posts by Das don’t show inappropriate bias.

Pro-BJP posts taken out of context: FB

These posts are taken out of context and don’t represent the full scope of Facebook’s efforts to support the use of our platform by parties across the Indian political spectrum,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told WSJ.

According to the WSJ report, Facebook also “declined to act after discovering that BJP was circumventing its political ad transparency requirements”. Facebook rules require advertisers to verify their identities and disclose them to users. But in addition to buying Facebook ads in its own name, BJP was also found to “have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars through newly created organisations that didn’t disclose the party’s role”. Facebook, however, did not take down the pages or flag the ads. “Instead, it privately raised the matter with BJP, according to former employees in both India and the US, where the decision was discussed,” the article states.

Regarding the violation of political advertising rules, Stone said that Facebook decided not to act after concluding that its rules hadn’t been specific enough. He also added that it “has decided to review that decision following the Journal’s questions this past week.”

The latest article also claims that when Das joined Facebook in 2011, “the social media giant was eager to demonstrate its utility in politics”. So, it rolled out training for several Indian political parties on how best to use the platform to mobilise supporters, and Modi’s team adopted the training early on. In October 2012, Das referred to the training provided to BJP in Gujarat and wrote, “Success in our Gujarat Campaign,” while noting that the campaign was close to reaching a million fans on the platform.

In 2013 in another internal post, she described Modi as “the George W Bush of India” to her colleague Katie Harbath, who is the top global elections official at Facebook. Das described Harbath as her “longest fellow traveller”, who helped her in the Gujarat campaign. Facebook said it offered similar meetings and training to other parties.

According to the WSJ, when Modi was declared the PM candidate, “Das made her sentiments on the race clear”. “When a fellow staffer noted in response to one of her internal posts that BJP’s primary opponent, Congress, had a larger following on Facebook than Modi’s individual page, Ms. Das responded: “Don’t diminish him by comparing him with INC. Ah well—let my bias not show,” the article states.

Bajrang Dal

Anam Ajmal, December 15, 2020: The Times of India

Facebook India refused to classify Bajrang Dal as a “dangerous organisation” on the platform, saying it could trigger “physical attacks” on its staff and hamper business, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Bajrang Dal founder president Vinay Katiyar and national convener Sohan Solanki did not respond to calls and messages. VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain told TOI that the organisation would initiate legal proceedings against WSJ for “defaming it”.

Bid to defame, insult India: Bajrang Dal

VHP spokesperson Vinod Bansal said Wall Street Journal was playing into the hands of vested interests to malign India’s image Both Bajrang Dal and VHP are part of the Sangh Parivar. “This is a conspiracy primarily to defame and insult India under the garb of attacking Bajrang Dal. We will not accept this insult and will take legal action against WSJ,” said Jain, who was a senior officebearer of Bajrang Dal.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi shared a video clip of a news channel which aired the WSJ report and wrote, “Further confirmation that BJP-R S S control Facebook in India.”

Facebook denied any bias against or towards any political party. “We enforce our Dangerous Organisations and Individuals policy globally without regard to political position or party affiliation,” a Facebook spokesperson told TOI. WSJ quoted Facebook spokesman Andy Stone, who confirmed that the possibility that Bajrang Dal may endanger Facebook’s interests and employees was “a subject for discussion as part of the standard process”.

The issue was flagged after a Pentecostal church was attacked outside New Delhi in June, the WSJ report said. The attackers punched a pastor, claimed the church was built on a Hindu temple and installed an idol, the report said.

“Bajrang Dal members claimed responsibility. The company’s safety team earlier this year concluded that Bajrang Dal supported violence against minorities across India and likely qualified as a ‘dangerous organisation’,” the report said. Facebook India, however, “balked” at the suggestion.

Govt requests for FB data

2017: India 2nd globally

Govt requests for FB data on the rise, India 2nd globally, May 17, 2018: The Times of India

Govt requests for FB data from India and other countries, in 2017- 2nd half
From: Govt requests for FB data on the rise, India 2nd globally, May 17, 2018: The Times of India

Most Requests Related To Criminal Investigations: Report

India made over 12,000 requests for data from Facebook between July and December 2017. Facebook complied with some or all data in 53% of these requests. The data requests were up by 23.5% from the first half of 2017, when the government made 9,853 requests.

India ranked second globally to the US, which made the maximum number of requests for data at 32,742. Facebook revealed these numbers in their biannual transparency report on Tuesday.

These requests cover Facebook and its other products like WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger and Oculus. “Government officials sometimes make requests for data about people who use Facebook as part of official investigations. A vast majority of these requests relate to criminal cases, such as robberies or kidnappings. In many of these cases, these government requests seek basic subscriber information, such as name, registration date and length of service,” says Facebook describing the nature of the requests.

Facebook has over 201 million monthly active users in India, and over 234 million in the US.

The company also released data on “internet disruptions” or “intentional restrictions on connectivity” which impacted availability of its services. India topped the charts with 14 shutdowns or disruptions between July-December 2017. Iraq was second with nine and Turkey third with six internet disruptions. Possible reasons for such “disruptions” include internet shutdown ordered by government or suspension of web services.

United kingdom was a distant third in the number of requests made for data, at 7,455. Among the countries with the least number of requests was Russia, at six requests between July-December 2017. None of these requests were complied with. Pakistan made 1,320 requests and got responses for 59% of those.

2018: India 2nd globally

June 4, 2019: The Times of India

Govt requests for FB data from India and other countries, in 2018- 2nd half 
From: June 4, 2019: The Times of India

The Indian govt made 20,805 user data requests for user data to Facebook between July and December 2018, the company revealed in its latest Transparency Report. India has the second highest number of requests after the US.

July-Dec 2020

Anam Ajmal, May 21, 2021: The Times of India

Facebook restricted access to 878 pieces of content in India on the directions of the Union ministry of Electronics and Information Technology between July and December 2020, the social media giant revealed in the latest edition of its transparency report. This included "content against security of the state and public order", the report said.

“Of these, 10 were restricted temporarily. We also restricted access to 54 items in compliance with court orders,” Facebook further said in the report released on Thursday. After a piece of content is restricted, users of that country cannot see it anymore.

The restrictions were enforced for violating Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, which allows the state not to provide any reason for content takedown. There has been an increase of 28.9% requests for restrictions in the second half of 2020, compared to the first half when the government made 681 such requests.

Globally, government requests for user data increased 10 per cent from 173,592 to 191,013 in the second half of 2020. India made 40,300 requests for user data between July and December, second only to the United States which made 61,262 such requests. In the first half of 2020, India had made 35,560 requests. The social media company complied with 52% of the India requests. In the case of the US, Facebook complied with 89% of the requests.

Number of users

2017: 201 million users in India

Kim Arora|India has the most FB users: Report|Jul 15 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

A recent report claims that India has overtaken the United States in total number of Facebook users, becoming the social networking giant's top country by user base. The report pegs Indian users at 241 million, a shade ahead of the Unites States' 240 million. However, Facebook has contradicted the number, claiming the “monthly active“ users ­ or those who log in at least once a month ­ in India stands at 201million.

The report on technology news website The Next Web cited numbers reported to advertisers by Facebook. Citing slides from social media management platform Hootsuite and social media marketing and advertising agency We Are Social, it claims that India has 241 million “active“ users, while the US stands at 240 million. Brazil is reported to stand a distant third with 139 million “active“ users.

When contacted to confirm the TNW report, a Face firm the TNW report, a Facebook spokesperson told TOI over email: “Facebook has 201 million monthly active users in India.“ In its first quarter earnings call in May this year, Facebook reported 234 million MAUs for USA and Canada together. Splitting the numbers between the two countries, it is possible that India indeed has taken over USA in number of Facebook users by now ­ a development Facebook has not confirmed.

Just last month, Facebook reported reaching the two billion mark in monthly active users. The number game here is tricky.“Active“ users are different from registered users, who may or may not log in with any amount of regularity .

In 2017 India had 201 million Facebook users

A registered but inactive user is of little value to advertisers. Active users are mea sured variously as “daily active“ or “monthly active“.These log in at least one a day or once a month respectively . Typically, for any social media platform, the number of monthly active users or MAUs as they are called, is significantly higher than the number of daily active users or DAUs.

An important caveat from TNW contributor Simon Kemp explains the discrepancy in numbers. “It's worth noting that the numbers Facebook reports to advertisers can change on a daily basis though, and the platform even reported a slight dip in global user numbers just before it announced its two billion active user milestone,“ says Kemp in the TNW article. Which is to say , that the numbers for the earnings call and those reported to advertisers are measured differently .

Helping Indians

2018: preventing suicides

Pranjal Baruah, Facebook alerts Assam police, helps prevent suicide, July 25, 2018: The Times of India

Alerted by Facebook headquarters in the US, police rescued a minor girl in Assam who had expressed her wish to commit suicide in a post on the social media platform.

"The Facebook headquarters on Monday informed the state police that a minor girl was contemplating suicide. The state police reacted promptly and saved the girl," said DGP Kuladhar Saikia.

"The girl had written 'I am gonna commit suicide today' on Facebook. She and her family have been counselled and the girl has been advised to remove her post," said an official.

In January, a minor boy from Azara, on the city outskirts, had issued a similar threat. "The boy had posted a video showing some cuts on his hand while threatening to kill himself if his parents don't give him an expensive digital camera. After being alerted by Facebook authorities, police rescued him," said a police source.

Restrictions/ ‘disruptions’


Anam Ajmal, Nov 15, 2019: The Times of India

Facebook has removed 5.4 billion fake accounts between January and September, the social media giant announced in its first transparency report for 2019.

The report also said that India accounted for nearly 60% of the internet disruptions worldwide with Jammu & Kashmir being the most impacted region. The report adds that the total duration of internet disruption in India was eight weeks, two days and 22 hours, but also added that the report is “not intended to be exhaustive”.

Internet disruptions has been described as “intentional restrictions on connectivity that limit people’s ability to access the internet or specific websites and apps”. The company documented 68 such cases worldwide, but 40 of these were from India, followed by Algeria (7), Ethiopia (4) and Kazakhstan (3).

In the first half of 2019 (Q1 and Q2), government requests for user data increased by 16% from 110,634 to 128,617. Internationally, the US made the maximum requests for user data: 50,741. India was second on the list with 22,684 such requests. For Indian requests, Facebook had a compliance rate of 54%. For US, compliance was 88%.

The California-headquartered company has been bringing out this report twice every year since 2013. The company added that “fake accounts continue to be estimated at approximately 5% of our worldwide monthly active users on Facebook”. Facebook has nearly 2.4 billion monthly active users worldwide.

The report also states that company “took action” against 15.5 million hate speech posts since January. Facebook added that it has made significant investments in technologies that helped in detecting posts that violate their policies faster.



Pankaj Doval, Dec 3, 2021: The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The corona lockdowns and stay-at-home phenomenon helped the Facebook group (now called Meta) record a massive surge in business in India as revenues grew 41% to close fiscal 2020-21 at Rs 9,326 crore against Rs 6,613 crore in the previous year.

The growth in social media and internet usage – aided by some of the lowest tariffs in the world – helped the American tech giant move up strongly in the year which was heavily impacted by the corona shutdowns and where education, work and entertainment happened from within homes.

According to the financial statement filed by the company with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), its India profit in the year stood at Rs 128 crore, a shade lower to the Rs 136 crore recorded in 2019-20.

The profitability was impacted due to the company’s spends in the country as it made a specific investment of Rs 17.5 crore on grants extended to small and medium businesses to help them overcome the impact of the pandemic. Also, the 2019-20 statement had benefits from a one-off reversal of a bad debt provision.

Business seems to be going strong for the company, not only helped by the lockdowns but by a general tendency of higher digital adoption and growing data usages.

According to a recent report by telecom network supplier Ericsson, Indian smartphone users will consume at least 50GB per month of data by 2027, led by low tariffs, higher data consumption and rollout of faster networks such as 5G.

While Facebook remains the dominant revenue grosser for the company, there has also been a spurt in the consumption of Instagram that benefited immensely from the ban on Chinese app TikTok, apart from growing organically. The ban on TikTok saw Instagram’s short-video format Reels get a massive leg-up with influencers and younger audiences jumping ship to the Meta-owned platform.

It is expected that the momentum will continue to stay strong for the company, something that Meta India MD Ajit Mohan had acknowledged in a previous conversation. “Last year saw an inflection point in consumers not just moving online, but also deeply engaging with businesses and brands online… Recognizing this, savvy marketers are shifting their spends online and this is driving growth in digital advertising in India,” Mohan had said.


2019: India has FB’s biggest audience

Samin Sayeda, November 25, 2020: The Times of India

FB users in India and the world, 2019 April
From: Samin Sayeda, November 25, 2020: The Times of India

See graphic:

FB users in India and the world, 2019 April.


FB invests $5 billion in Jio

Mike Isaac and Vindu Goel, April 21, 2020: The New York Times

Facebook made its largest single investment by putting $5.7 billion into Jio Platforms of India, an enormous bet on the developing market and a sign of how large tech companies are forging ahead in the pandemic.

Jio Platforms is a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, one of India’s biggest multinational companies and a major provider of cellular and internet services in the country. The investment, which requires approval from competition regulators, would give Facebook a 9.99 percent stake in Jio Platforms, Jio said.

Facebook said the move indicated its commitment to India. More than 388 million people in India have been connected to the internet over the past four years through Jio, Facebook said.

“The country is in the middle of a major digital transformation, and organizations like Jio have played a big part in getting hundreds of millions of Indian people and small businesses online,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said in a post to his Facebook page announcing the deal. “With communities around the world in lockdown, many of these entrepreneurs need digital tools they can rely on to find and communicate with customers and grow their businesses.”

Facebook is moving forward with strategic investments at a fragile time in the global economy. While many businesses have been hurt by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, large technology companies are positioned to benefit in the long run as more people turn to their services while sheltering indoors. Companies such as Apple, Alphabet and Facebook all have financial muscle to ride out a difficult period.

Facebook sees plenty of opportunity with Jio. India is a large market for Facebook; more than 400 million people in the country use WhatsApp, its global messaging service, while more than 300 million people use the company’s core social network.

Facebook has historically not made as much money from each user in Asia as it does elsewhere. But the company hinted that the new partnership could change that. WhatsApp has worked for years to build tools for small businesses and has dabbled in payment systems, while Facebook has also invested in creating digital storefronts for entrepreneurs to sell goods and services online.

“By bringing together JioMart, Jio’s small-business initiative, with WhatsApp, we can enable people to connect with businesses, shop and ultimately purchase products in a seamless mobile experience,” said a statement by David Fischer, Facebook’s chief revenue officer, and Ajit Mohan, Facebook’s managing director in India.

In a joint interview with a top Reliance executive, Mr. Mohan said tens of millions of small businesses in India were already using WhatsApp to communicate. “How do we help them access customers and help people discover products?” he said, adding that Jio offered a way to reach them.

Jio has been teaming up with other American tech companies such as Microsoft to offer an enhanced suite of services to small businesses. Its current offerings include high-speed internet, cloud storage, payments and even products from its vast retail supply chain.

This is not Facebook’s first foray into the Indian market. Several years ago, it tried to offer free internet connectivity to Indian users in a program called Free Basics. But that initiative hit snag after snag until it was banned in the country in 2016. Regulators decided that companies could not offer free internet services that favored some companies over others.

More recently, Facebook has been at loggerheads with the Indian government over WhatsApp. The government has demanded that WhatsApp change its encryption to trace messages back to their source, which WhatsApp has refused to do. At the same time, regulators have repeatedly stalled WhatsApp’s request to offer a payments service to its Indian users.

Jio was founded by Mukesh Ambani, an industrialist who is India’s richest man. It transformed India’s technology scene when it hit the market in 2016 by offering free calls and ultracheap 4G data to Indians who were previously stuck with high prices and slower 3G connections from the existing carriers.

Since then, Jio has become India’s largest carrier by number of subscribers, with nearly 400 million lines. It has helped drive India’s mobile internet costs to the lowest in the world, with virtually unlimited data and calls costing just a few dollars a month. The price war it began has also hobbled India’s telecom companies, driving many out of business.

Jio has ambitions to take on Amazon in e-commerce, run data centers, provide fiber internet to homes and businesses and set up new services like tele-health and distance learning.

But Mr. Ambani incurred enormous debt to build the telecom business. Those costs have been subsidized by other parts of Reliance Industries, which is also India’s largest retailer, its biggest producer of polyester and one of its biggest energy companies.

The money from Facebook will help Reliance reduce some of that debt and invest further in its network, which it needs to do after regulators delayed approval of a high-profile $15 billion deal to sell 25 percent of its energy business to the Saudis.

Mr. Ambani has also been the most powerful corporate voice urging regulators to take an India-first approach that favors local companies and hobbles foreign firms like Facebook and Amazon. He has argued that the vast amounts of data collected by such firms should stay in India and be controlled by Indians.

In the joint interview, Anshuman Thakur, Jio’s strategy chief, and Mr. Mohan said the companies had different perspectives on some issues but added that would not preclude them from working together in other areas.

“We will collaborate on some,” Mr. Mohan said. “We will compete on many.”

Facebook’s investment may help turn India’s battered telecom sector into a duopoly. A recent Supreme Court decision ordering older carriers to pay billions of dollars in back taxes has left the industry in dire financial shape, and one of the three major carriers, Vodafone Idea, is teetering on the edge of insolvency.

2020: Controversial Ankhi Das ‘resigns’

Pankaj Doval, October 28, 2020: The Times of India

FB’s controversial senior executive Ankhi Das quits

NEW DELHI: Ankhi Das, the senior Facebook executive who was caught in a raging controversy recently over allegations of political bias in the running of Facebook and WhatsApp in India, has quit the American social media giant.

Das, who had joined Facebook in 2011 when it started gaining in global scale and was also expanding in India, leaves the company with immediate effect. The departure, which is being portrayed as a routine exit, comes after she faced allegations of meddling with Facebook’s content moderation policy in order to favour the governing dispensation.

Das had been in charge of Facebook’s public policy and government initiative for India, South and Central Asia regions, and was often the face of the company in interactions with the government and regulators.

"Ankhi has decided to step down from her role in Facebook to pursue her interest in public service. Ankhi was one of our earliest employees in India and played an instrumental role in the growth of the company and its services over the last 9 years," Ajit Mohan, MD of Facebook India, said in a statement.

Mohan said Das had been part of his leadership team over the last two years, a role in which he credited her with making enormous contributions. "We are grateful for her service and wish her the very best for the future."

Das, who in August had filed a police complaint after receiving "violent threats" to her life, said she "decided to step down" in order to "pursue my personal interest in public service".

"There is an enormous amount I have learnt from incredibly smart and talented people in the company, particularly from people on the policy team... Thank you, Mark (Zuckerberg) for creating something beautiful for the world. I hope I have served you and the company well," she said.

Facebook has faced a series of controversies in India, from failing to rein in fake news (on WhatsApp) that was blamed for a series of lynching incidents; vendor Cambridge Analytica’s data breach (where a CBI inquiry is on); refusal to share origins of hate messaging on WhatsApp (over its encryption rules); and the recent allegations of bias and ignoring hate speech.

Controversies around Das first erupted around the year 2016 when regulator Trai opposed Facebook’s controversial "Free Basics" platform on the grounds that it may be against the tenets of net neutrality. Das had been instrumental in pushing the Free Basics platform in discussions with Trai and the government, and this had also seen the social media giant start a public campaign in support of its program. However, it had to abandon the move after getting a cold response from the government.

A few months ago, Das was accused of opposing application of Facebook’s hate-speech rules against BJP and other right-wing leaders. In some quarters, she was also accused of posting messages in support of BJP for several years on a Facebook group of the company's employees.

The issue was also highlighted by the opposition, with Congress demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe.

The matter came to light after a report in the Wall Street Journal. Facebook’s India chief Mohan then issued a statement saying the company denounced hate and bigotry in any form.

Even BJP criticised Facebook, with telecom and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad writing to FB founder Mark Zuckerberg in September, accusing the company’s employees of "on record abusing" Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior Cabinet ministers and engaging in "collusion… to cast aspersions on the democratic process of our great democracy".

"It seems from credible media reports that Facebook India team, right from the India managing director to other senior officials, is dominated by people who belong to a particular political belief. People from this political predisposition have been overwhelmingly defeated by the people in successive free and fair elections. After having lost all democratic legitimacy, they are trying to discredit India’s democratic process by dominating the decision-making apparatus of important social media platforms. Facebook is the latest tool in their arsenal to stoke internal divisions and social disturbances," Prasad wrote.


Facebook blocks hashtag by mistake

Anam Ajmal , April 30, 2021: The Times of India

The government termed as “misleading” and “mischievous” a report that it had directed Facebook to block posts carrying hashtag #ResignModi – and the social media giant later restored them, saying they had been blocked “by mistake”.

The Union ministry of electronics and information technology shared a statement on Koo app, India’s domestic alternative to Twitter, saying, “A story by Wall Street Journal attributing removal of a certain hashtag by Facebook to GOI’s efforts to curb public dissent is misleading on facts and mischievous in intent. Govt has not issued any direction to remove this hashtag. Facebook has also clarified that it was removed by mistake.”

Blocked hashtag by mistake, says Facebook

On Wednesday, several thousand posts carrying the hashtag #ResignModi were unavailable on Facebook for several hours. When users searched for the trend, they were redirected to a page that stated that the posts were “against Facebook’s community standards”.

Responding to a tweet asking why the hashtag was blocked, FB spokesperson Andy Stone said around 1.10am, “This hashtag has been restored and we are looking into what happened.” Around 5.30am, in response to another tweet, Stone said, “Here’s more on what happened: We temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it.”

Several other international news outlets, including Guardian and Buzzfeed, also wrote about FB blocking the hashtag, which was the top trend in India through the day, garnering over 302k tweets. A statement shared by FB with TOI echoed Stone’s tweets.

Last week the government ordered social media giants to take down 100 ‘fake’ and ‘misleading’ posts and URLs around Covid. Pointing to increasing instances of online censorship, cyber experts said archaic laws that restrict the freedom of expression and speech needed to be overhauled. “Laws that require confidentiality of takedown notices (such as Section 69A of the IT Act) should be repealed,” Mozilla Tech policy fellow, Divij Joshi, told TOI.


FB favours BJP

Pankaj Doval, June 6, 2022: The Times of India

New Delhi : A whistle-blower at Meta (previously Facebook), who was with the company’s US operations till late 2020, has disclosed purportedly internal documents alleging that the company refused to act agai nst fake Facebook accounts that supported a Member of Parliament of the ruling BJP, even as it went ahead with blocking fake users supporting Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ov er the same violations. Sophie Zhang, the former data scientist who was with Facebook between January 16, 2018, and September 4, 2020, had previously offered the documentation for consideration by the parliamentary standing committee on communications and IT, led by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, although it was not taken up pending an approval by the Lok Sabha Speaker, as per he r submission. Her accusations come months after another whistle-blower and former data scientist, Frances Haugen, accused the company of being lenient on those associated with the R S S despite their pages promoting “fear mongering, (and) anti-Muslim narratives”. Haugen had also charged Facebook with having less-than-required local language editors that resulted in hate speech incidents remaini ng unchecked on the platform. Zhang spoke to TOI as she r eleased a series of internal documents, some camouflaging the names of certain internal employees, where she accuses Meta’s India public policy team of bias and favouring BJP.

She accused Shivnath Thukral, currently public policy director at WhatsApp (Meta group company) who between November 2017 and March 2020 was in-charge of the same function at Facebook, of inaction when it came to censuring a group of inauthentic/fake accounts

that supported a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, even though Thukral recommended take-down orders on a network of fake accounts supporting the Congress in Punjab and AAP in Delhi over similar charges. She also accused Thukral, who has deposed before the parliamentary committee regarding matters of fake accounts and social media, of committing a “serious offence” by not admitting to her authentic findings. “Why did Thukral dismiss… (the) revelations as unsubstantiated in his testimony to the Lok Sabha, when he pe rsonally approved parts of… (the) work in Delhi? Lying to the Lok Sabha under oath is a serious offense,” she said. When contacted, a spokesperson for Meta in India said the company “fundament ally disagrees” with Zhang’s “characterisation” of the company’s efforts to tackle abuse. “We have not been provided the documents and cannot speak to the specific assertions, but we have sta ted previously that we fundamentally disagree with Zhang’s characterisation of our priorities and efforts to root out abuse on our platform. We aggressively go after abuse around the world and have specialised teams focused on this work… Combatting coordinated inauthentic behaviour is our priority. We’re also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue before taking action or making public claims about them. ”

Speaking specifically on the allegations around Thukral, the spokesperson said, “This is a completely wrong and misleading assertion and reflects a limited understanding of how we enforce our policies. The decisions around content escalations are not made unilaterally by any one person, including any member of the India Public Policy team; rather, they are inclusive of views from different teams and disciplines within the company. The process comes with robust checks and balances built in to ensure that the policies are implemen ted as they are intended to be and take into consideration applicable local laws. We strive to apply our policies uniformly without regard to anyone’s political positions or party affiliations. ” Zhang alleged that while Facebook’s public policy bosses strived to maintain healthy relations with politicians from the ruling class, they were also given the charge to adjudicate on their behaviour online, gi ving rise to a conflict of interest.

As per Zhang, she made most of the revelations around the inauthentic accounts in September-October 2019 period, following which she raised the matter with the ‘Threat Intelligence Investigator’ of Meta who works on south Asia.

Around December 2019, she claimed to have discovered the network of fake accounts associated with a BJP’s lawmaker, and clai ms Meta’s investigator verified her findings for the parliamentarian’s IT cell. However, action was avoided on his personal account as indications came in that it belongs to “a hig h-profile Indian politician”, Zhang alleged, adding that only in May 2020, some of the accounts related to the politician were actioned.

Zhang had been terminated from the company in September 2020, though she says that officially it was blamed on poor performance, and not relating to her work in India.

See also

Facebook in India

Reliance Jio

Social media: India

Personal tools