Saturday, March 12, 2016

Facebook "filters" content critical of controversial Art of Living's World Cultural Festival off Jamuna in Delhi

By Our Representative
Facts of come to light suggesting that Facebook, world’s biggest social networking site, has sought block or filter posts critical of well-known preacher and Hindu religious guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, involved in a major environmental controversy for holding World Cultural Festival on the banks of Yamuna in Delhi.
A well-known Ahmedabad-based activist and social entrepreneur, Roshan Shah, has written to those responsible for handling the Facebook India Online Services Private Limited that his Facebook timeline (https://www.facebook.com/roshiley) for the last two days was flooded with “environmentalists’ and nationalists’ posts” which were “very critical” of the culture festival.
However, to his utter surprise, “all of a sudden this morning I saw no posts”, he said in his complaint lodged to the Facebook India Online Services Private Limited on March 12, even as sending it to three of its directors, Vikram Ravindra Mamadipudi, David William Kling, and Jaspal Singh Athwal.
“Even my posts on the same subject with Sri Sri and Ravi Shankar keywords did not show up”, Shah said, adding, these directors of Facebook India Online Services – which operates from Hitech City, Hyderabad, are “responsible for day to day operations of operations of facebook.com in India”.
Calling “content filtering” violation of Freedom of speech, Shah said, “Directors and team should be prosecuted and penalized for this”. Threatening legal action, he added, “The whole concept of Social Media goes for a toss here.”
Submitting that Facebook “is operating as Online Social Networking site with primarily user generated content”, Shah said, “Facebook users make online friends on Facebook and share content on own or friends’ timeline freely which ideally comes up and should come up in one or more of (a) other friends timeline; (b) friends of friends timeline and (c) general public timeline and d) followers and general public for public posts.”
“People who follow their friends on Facebook ought to see content of friends whom they follow first on priority over other general content which is not from friends excluding certain sponsored content”, he continued.
“Facebook tried to control social media content via unsuccessful attempt promoting free basics, where the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) ruled in favour of net neutrality and Facebook thereby got a jolt on its Free Basics agenda”, Shah said.
He added, “Now to circumvent that agenda, Facebook has found a new illegal way of content filtering and making money by blocking content on timeline”, giving evidence through a youtube video which he shot about 10 am Indian Standard Time on March 12 regarding how this was done.
Linking the filtering of his Facebook posts with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation receiving Rs 2.5 crore from the Union Ministry of Culture for holding the World Culture Festival, Shah said, the Indian army was “used for bridge construction” and trees were “chopped off” – which “ticked off social media users on Facebook to slam consistently for the last two days on this act of Ravi Shankar and his team.”
The posts, he said, also slammed “Sri Sri’s collusion with Union government to abuse taxpayers’ money”, wondering if Facebook has now “another revenue model of content filtering”.
“Facebook can push its sponsored content”, Shah said, adding, however, it has “no right to filter my content or my or friends or user generated contents on timelines.”
Calling this “a dangerous model” which requires “immediate investigation and a written response from Facebook” on how “Rs 2.5 crore grant got filtered”, Shah said, “Even the National Green Tribunal has slapped Rs 5 crore fine on Art of Living Foundation”, yet, “Facebook is trying to help such criminals by filtering negative content is abetting crime.”

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