Amit Malviya – In-charge of BJP’s national Information & Technology:
Manish Tewari’s letter to Facebook opens up a Pandora’s box. Mr Tewari wrote a letter to Facebook management on 18th August, where he says that Facebook management can get in touch with his senior policy advisor Bharat Gopalaswamy in the USA.
This is a serious revelation and troublesome on multiple grounds. Can Indian MPs hire lobbyists in US masquerading as advisors? Whose interests do these US based lobbyists serve when they advise Congress MP Manish Tewari?
Bharat Gopalaswamy served as the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, where Manish Tewari also served. Interestingly it is the same Atlantic Council which controls and guides Facebook’s effort in dealing with political propaganda.
Interestingly, when Facebook purged a large number of pages last year, while some pro-Congress pages were also taken down, the following of pro-right wing pages was 10 times that of pro-Congress pages. This process was also led by the Atlantic Council.
The Atlantic Council is also a global Facebook partner in its election integrity efforts. In light of these revelations, it is puzzling that the INC, at the first instance, has clandestinely chosen to use the services of Bharat Gopalaswamy to lobby for INC with Facebook.
It is clear that by using the services of Think Tanks/its members, who use the charade of academic neutrality, INC has compromised its position. It is clear such alliances and services are used to gain access to FB’s management to influence the political process in India.
Even legal experts in US have opined that tightening relationship between US Think Tanks and its overseas sponsors could violate Foreign Agents Registration Act, 1938. What is surprising in this instance is the explicit nature of the relationship with overseas influencer.
Such lobbying raises ethical issues and issues of conflict of interest. Lobbyists are the paid persuaders whose job is to influence the decision of Govts, but what amazes us is the use of such persuaders to influence the decisions of private corporations like Facebook.
To operate behind close doors through quiet negotiations by using array of tactics to shape public opinion, the Indian National Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi and her son, has touched a new low in the politics.