Pune: In wake of recent revelations by Facebook regarding collection and manipulation of user data for political and electoral purposes, everyone was pushed to the edge of their seats after seeing Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg being grilled at the Congressional hearing in Washington.
Facebook users in progressive circles in Maharashtra went on alert as they started receiving a large number of friend requests from unknown accounts. Facebook, beyond being a social sharing platform, has become a virtual hangout, where networks are created in groups, which are usually of similar political leanings and ideologies or causes. These groups are presented with further networks of like-minded people through the people they get in touch step-by-step. Facebook algorithm pushes these patterns further.
“I suddenly noticed that I had received some 40-50 friend requests in a day. I found this very suspicious,” says Imran Khan, a vocal Facebook user, who takes a stand on progressive issues on the platform, adding, ”Many of them were profiles, which had many mutual friends with me, but some were completely unknown to me or my circle.”
Pravin Kshirsagar, who has a business in Mumbai and is also vocal about social issues on Facebook, says he was bombarded with friend requests over the last week. He says, “I usually get 2-3 friend requests in a day when a post gets shared or is liked or through mutual friends. For the past few days though, I was suddenly bombarded with 200-300 requests. I became very suspicious.”
While these vocal Facebook users were alarmed, the whole ruckus turned out to be an opportunity to widen their circle. “We had started a campaign on our page Jaglya, urging our followers to post their profile pictures with the newly released filter having a BR Ambedkar signature,” says Milind Dhumale, the founder of Jaglya.com an Ambedkarite page, adding, “We received tremendous response progressives people from across the country and they started connecting with each other.”
“Since there is already a large Ambedkarite community online, there was potential of networking, but many refrained due to lack of mutual friends or clarity of a persons’ stand,” Dhumale says, adding, “But since people put up the signature of Ambedkar, they recognised each others and started sending friend requests.”
“I did notice that a large number of the profiles, which sent me requests, had a BR Ambedkar signature filter or a picture of Babasaheb as their profile picture,” says Suryavanshi, adding, “My doubts receded, but still it was an interesting experience.” Dhumale says that as many people started posting about the requests, they put up a clarification through Jaglya: “We posted on our page that the requests that our friends are receiving are a good sign and they should take it as an opportunity to widen the progressive, democratic circle.”