Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the second most popular politician on Facebook with almost 19 million “likes.” He is behind United States President Barack Obama who has more than 41 million followers. It may be one of the big reasons why the Indian prime minister is such an avid user of the platform, and his timeline is constantly updated with thoughts and views. The corollary may also be true that being an avid, recognizable user actually attracts more followers. Modi is a strong advocate of the use of social media, and has continued to encourage the use of Twitter and Facebook by ministries in order to reach out to the Indian populace.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, who is visiting the country on a promotional trip, added that it is important for politicians to make use of social networking platforms. Doing so adds some degree of transparency while making it much easier for politicians to reach out to and keep in contact with voters. It is unclear whether a meeting between Sandberg and Modi will be scheduled.
There are more than 100 million users of Facebook in India, which makes it the second biggest market after the U.S., and almost 85 percent of Indians access the network with a mobile device. Facebook would like to increase the number of users in the country by another billion users and is counting on the explosive growth in the use of smartphones and other mobile devices to keep users connected.
At a round table that was attended by business and media representatives, Sandberg revealed that Facebook was willing to invest in India, which has become a very important market for the company both from a global and local point of view. Along with the fact that Modi has become the second most popular politician on the network, the company recognizes the value of the communications that are transpiring and is currently involved with establishing remote engineering venues. She also noted that there was relatively strong prevalence of engineering talent, from which the company can benefit.
Facebook is also expanding in other countries besides India, and much of the work that the company has done, such as the integration of applications on feature phones, was actually completed in India before being rolled out to other markets. She also expressed some concern for the use of Facebook and social networks to incite violent acts.
Facebook recently revealed that the company had conducted a massive study in 2012, which indicated that the emotions of 700,000 users of the network were manipulated by the type of posts that were published on the news feeds. The revelation has caused some concern, as it was seen as being unethical because users were used as guinea pigs, and it appears that the study was conducted covertly without users’ consent.
The specter of a lack of privacy for users has also been raised, and Facebook may again be facing questions from authorities in the UK. The company defends the study, though it has expressed some regret in the way that the findings were disclosed.
While addressing the gathering in India, Sandberg explains that the study was conducted over a seven-day period to test different aspects of the newsfeed, but she admits that the company did a terrible job in communicating the interpretation of the results.
By Dale Davidson