Saturday, 26 November, 2022
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It’s not personal, just business — Facebook-WSJ controversy isn’t unique to India, BJP

In episode 552 of ThePrint's Cut the Clutter, Shekhar Gupta explains that for a mega company like FB, policy isn't driven by an individual but a collective goal of profit maximisation.

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New Delhi: Large companies like Facebook won’t allow one employee’s ideology to impact its final objective of profit maximisation but will work with those in power, whoever they may be, explained ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta in episode 552 of ‘Cut The Clutter’.

Facebook is not driven by an allegiance to any particular political party or political ideology but is driven by the company’s own need to increase profit and the need to maintain good relations with those in power in India, he said.

Referring to the recent allegations that the social media giant and its India policy head Ankhi Das had been partial to the BJP, Gupta explained that Facebook is not trying to please a particular political party but is only doing what it takes to continue doing business in its largest user base, India.

A 14 August Wall Street Journal report stirred a controversy after it claimed that “Ms Das has provided the BJP with favourable treatment on election-related issues”. The Congress party then wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seeking a probe into its India operations.

“Facebook will salaam (salute) anybody who’s in power in the country. Today, the BJP is in power … any of these companies will let any Prime Minister of India hug them and they will do it with a big smile, irrespective of who the prime minister is because they want the Indian market. So if the Congress was in power, they will do the same thing to the Congress,” Gupta said.

Gupta said a company, which has a market cap of nearly $750 billion and functions as a superpower nation — that could even hire Nick Clegg, a former deputy prime minister of a ‘P5’ nation (one of five UNSC permanent members) like the UK, to run its public relations operations — won’t allow the company’s policy to be guided by just one employee’s ideology, as Das has been accused of by social media users aiming to establish Das’ affinity to right wing ideology.

“When you have a superpower mindset, you don’t let individual employees, no matter how powerful, how influential, how useful…, to guide your policy or to hijack your policy based on their own ideology.”

On the contrary, for companies like Facebook, with thousands of employees likely subscribing to differing ideologies, the objective is profit and everyone works towards it regardless of ideology, he said. “They’ll all work towards one common objective, which is profit maximisation and value maximisation for the shareholder, led in this case by Mark Zuckerberg himself.”

Also read: Facebook’s Ankhi Das says facing death threats, files police complaint after WSJ report row

Indian market value to Facebook

So why is India an important country for Facebook?

When it comes to business “prospects”, India will offer the largest set of content creators for Facebook since China does not allow the platform to operate there. The more content creators Facebook can bring onboard, the better it is for the company’s business prospects.

Hence, it would be in Facebook’s business interests to maintain cordial relations with the current Indian government.

But this isn’t just the case with India. “I don’t think a company like Facebook wants to be at odds with the ruling government of any country in the world…,” said Gupta.

He referred to how Facebook had made “concessions” even in smaller markets like Vietnam, adding they were neither “liberal” nor “right wing” concessions, but these were concessions made “so that they can continue working there”.

Also read: Why should I apologise? Have right to opinion, says BJP MLA in WSJ-Facebook controversy

The WSJ perspective

On allegations that Wall Street Journal had reported the story because it is a “left wing organization”, Gupta pointed to a July note WSJ had published to its readers.

It reassured readers that WSJ will continue to stick to its principles on its content regardless of its employees’ criticism of it, including criticism of an opinion article by US Vice President Mike Pence, largely seen as a conservative.

The note said its opinion pages offer an alternative to “uniform progressive views”, and that “most Journal reporters attempt to cover the news fairly and down the middle”.

Gupta said this offers perspective on the allegation that WSJ went after Facebook for alleged support to the right-wing BJP because the publication itself is left wing.

“It is the exact opposite of that,” said Gupta.

Watch the full CTC episode here:

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  1. What’s interesting is the fact, that the vested interest group within Facebook proudly announced itself as a Muslim Facebook employee group, is often glossed over.

    Hate speech of the T Raja Singh types needs to be curtailed but so also similar Hinduphobic posts of the Asauddin Owaisi types.

  2. Ahh…

    Far more better encapsulation than say..

    The wholly-opinionated crusade by former-adman-turned-journalist on “why only blame Facebook®”: Truly, the credentials and above all — the experience count.
    Like most of the time, Mr Shekhar Gupta has encapsulated it very well.
    Regardless, it doesn’t negate the fact that Facebook® bent over backwards in the fear of its survival, on a supposedly “World’s Largest Democracy”. If anything.. It rather proves that how even a neo-empire like Facebook® Inc( $FB) can’t champion civil-liberties — making yet-another, and boy.. Quite significant, DENT on India being a “tolerant, free-society”. Let alone a “liberal-democracy”.
    And in spite of Mr Shekhar’s otherwise well-reasoned arguments, he barely avoids landing himself in a sinkhole with his “…millions of employees with discrepant worldviews..”( paraphrased) fallacy: First of all, as a boss himself — somebody like Mr Gupta must be well-aware that any organisation, for-profit or not-for-profit( NGOs, and so on) run on what’s-dubbed Command Hierarchy, as in..( Or what’s-called ‘Chain of Command’ in armed-forces.) So the “politico-ideology” of gazillions of employees falters in front of select, tens of few in executive-suits across the globe. And hence.. To imply that Ankhi Das( no salutation!)’ worldviews were worth as “just-another employee input” is nothing short of preposterous. She’s the Chief of Policy for the whole of economically-defined subcontinent for fuck’s sake, not “just-another employee”. Speaking of.. While factors attributed to Das effectively-vetoing the professional-wisdom of technocratic employees SUPPOSEDLY charged with decision-making powers in that domain are actually very pro-Capitalist, however: Her job-profile clearly requires her to establish liaison with the authorities and the press — not “brainstorm” ideas about ensuring the business’ unacademic financial-prospects. That’s the job of Ms Divya Pannala. Unless there was a certain called-for caucus where the former was invited and specifically, was allowed to give her inputs.
    Nevermind the OSINT-sleuths who dug-up her links with the likes of ABVP, et al. — her very domain of the job, unhelped by her exceeding authority to influence the senior-authority against any punitive action and just a “slap on the wrist”, lemme spell-out: In straight-contradiction with their own so-called Community Standards, establishes unavoidable Conflicts of Interest. And hence, whilst one may rubbish the OSINT-findings as ‘just-another Connecting-the-Dots conspiracy-theory in a corner of the ‘pop-Interweb’ multiverse’(
    spoilers: It’s not! And asserting the same without expanding on it constitutes as ‘False Balance’ in the schools of Journalism.) but to put it stereotypically: Anybody who has studied Management and has performed excellently in tests would have a near-impossible time establishing that her conduct didn’t exceed authority. Add to the fact that years-long alternate-press coverage within Indian national-borders( mainstream-press is long idle, any surprise?) and by mainstream-press based outside national-borders, of Facebook® India’s operations[ pre-Cambridge Analytica® and Aaron Banks( no salutation!) days] clearly establishes an undeniable Conflicts of Interest, given her connections to the Corridors of Power[ particularly with the incumbent regime]( remember “Free Basics ®”, anybody?) succeed in establishing those Conflicts-of-Interest. So.. Like any smart person, her cover-story might be tight — doesn’t make it “the real-reason” ipso facto. I guess that satisfies my point and I won’t have to harp on “Appeal to Emotion” by positing the hypothesis involving historic fanatical-regimes.
    And hence.. For the 2nd-ever time since I created my account: I’m still content with deactivating( technically-accurate word for “deleting”) it. This “devil’s advocacy” has failed to convince a dwindling-breed of creatures like myself. And don’t worry.. Since I’m a dwindling-breed, I’ve also accounted for “Insta” and certainly — WhatsApp®. It’ll be phased.

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