NEW DELHI: Stepping up its offensive on Facebook for its alleged interference in India's electoral democracy, the Congress on Monday demanded criminal investigation into the affairs of the social media giant in India.
It also urged the government to put all pending approvals and licenses for Facebook and WhatsApp on hold until the investigations are completed.
Addressing a joint virtual press conference, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury along with Praveen Chakravarty and Rohan Gupta said the expose of Facebook's interference and assault on India's electoral democracy is a criminal offence.
They highlighted a recent article by the Wall Street Journal on Facebook having colluded with the ruling BJP and how questions were raised by Facebook employees on its India team's neutrality.
"Facebook and WhatsApp's role in subverting India's democracy is now unquestionable. Their complicity in propagating fake news to favour the BJP in elections. What makes it worse is that Facebook's global leadership team was well aware of the biases and partisanship of their India leadership team but were willing participants, as the latest Wall Street Journal article reveals," Chowdhury said.
The Congress has written two letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seeking action against its India team and an independent probe into their functioning and replacing them.
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad had attacked former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, saying he believes that any organisation that does not work to his liking is acting under the pressure of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Facebook had earlier said the company's social media platform prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence, adding these policies are enforced globally without regard to political affiliation.
Chowdhury said India is a sovereign republic and will not tolerate interference in its domestic affairs by anyone, let alone a foreign company.
"We will not allow this hard-won democracy to be manipulated and tarnished."
"The Indian National Congress demands a Joint Parliamentary Committee investigation immediately and a criminal investigation into the affairs of Facebook India and the people named.
"The party also demands that all pending approvals and licenses for Facebook & WhatsApp be put on hold until the investigations are completed.
Besides, we demand suspension of Facebook India's leadership team with immediate effect until the conclusion of the investigations," Chowdhury said.
The leadeers also demanded an inquiry by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology into the activities of all Heads of Public Policy teams of foreign technology companies operating in India and establish a code of conduct.