Ravi Shankar Prasad says Rahul Gandhi’s attack on RSS, BJP relies on a myth, asks a counter question
Senior BJP leader and Union minister for electronics and information technology and communications, Ravi Shankar Prasad, on Sunday launched a counter attack on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for alleging that the BJP and RSS spread fake news and hatred using social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp to influence the electorate.
Prasad said that Gandhi’s party had no locus standi to question the BJP given previous allegations of Congress having used online platforms to influence elections in India.
“Losers who cannot influence people even in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP and RSS. You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to weaponise data before the elections and now have the gall to question us?,” Prasad tweeted in response to Gandhi.
In 2018, UK based Cambridge Analytica was at the centre of a controversy linked to Facebook data breach of around 50 million users in the US to benefit Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower had told British lawmakers that he “believed” the Congress party in India was a client of the company at the regional level.
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had referred to a WSJ report quoting unnamed sources to claim that the social media giant had been lenient on alleged hate speeches by BJP leaders in order to protect their business prospects in India.
“BJP and RSS control Facebook & Whatsapp in India. They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook,” Rahul’s tweet had said.
The WSJ cited interviews with unnamed Facebook insiders to suggest that the company’s senior official and India policy executive Ankhi Das had intervened in internal content review processes to stop a ban on BJP’s Telangana MLA T Raja Singh, who made communally charged posts targeting the Muslim community.
The report claimed that Das, “told staff members that punishing violations by politicians from Mr. Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”.
Facebook has, however, denied the claims made in the WSJ report and stated that it adopts a uniform policy on hate speeches across the world irrespective of the party, position or stature of the individual or organization involved.
The BJP, too, responded to the report and said the party didn’t approve of the comment made by Telangana MLA and disassociates itself with comments that call for violence or are not in line with the party’s official stance.
Prasad in fact asked Rahul Gandhi if he had condemned the recent communal violence in Bengaluru?
“The fact is that today access to information and freedom of expression has been democratized. It is no longer controlled by retainers of your family and that is why it hurts. Btw, haven’t yet heard your condemnation of the Bangalore riots. Where did your courage disappear?,” Prasad asked in his second tweet addressed to Gandhi.
Members of the minority community were involved in incidents of violence late on August 7 in Bengaluru over an offending social media post allegedly put out by Congress MLA Srinivasa Murthy’s kin, who has since claimed that his account was hacked.
Three people had died and scores were injured in the Bengaluru riots that also included an attack on the local Congress MLA’s house. He had to flee to save his life from rioters. The BJP has accused the Congress of appeasing one community by not condemning the riots.