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Facebook pulled down 14 out of 44 flagged pages by BJP ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls, says report

By Ankita Mohanty

Further adding to the controversy of Facebook-BJP collusion, new reports have surfaced strongly propounding Facebook's alleged bias towards the ‘Saffron’ party. Facebook has taken down 14 out of 44 pages which had been flagged down the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha Polls. Among the pages taken down from the social media platform include sites supporting journalists Vinod Dua and Ravish Kumar, as they were “in violation of expected standards” and carried posts “not in line with facts” acclaimed by BJP.

As opposed to this, Facebook reinstated 17 deleted pages that BJP had requested last year. The ruling party had also asked Facebook India to monetize The Chaupal and OPIndia- two right-leaning news outlets, one of them believed to be repeatedly spreading hate speech and misinformation.

Weirdly enough Facebook has reportedly admitted to making a mistake and told BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya that the pages were taken down “erroneously”. The requests for reinstating the pages were exchanged through emails between Malviya and Facebook India Public Policy executives Ankhi Das and Shivnath Thukral, the report by Indian Express added.

The pages in question have been found to have shared content from Postcard News, whose founder Mahesh V Hegde had faced arrest in Bangalore in March 2018. He was accused by the police of promoting communal enmity and outraging religious sentiments by posting “fake news”.

Even though these 17 pages aren’t directly connected to any political parties, the fact that Hedge was represented by BJP MP Tejasvi Surya, when arrested, seems riveting. Amit Maliya was quoted saying he wanted Facebook to do the “right thing” by putting back pages like “I Support Narendra Modi” and other large pages run by “genuine volunteers who were fearful they could get struck down”.

This grand revelation was made weeks after a report in the Wall Street Journal embroiling Facebook in a controversy of alleged favouritism towards the right-wing party and its leaders in four different cases of hate speech. In the article, titled ‘Facebook Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics -- Company executive opposed the move to ban controversial politician’, the WSJ reported an executive of the social media giant says that punishing violations by BJP workers “would damage the company's business prospects in the country".

This issue in itself put forward some pressing questions that need to be addressed with honesty and candour. Are we living in a society where the majority of us are being brainwashed into thinking a certain way that might benefit a certain party or our Government is transparent in its transactions?

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