India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, social media star?

With more than 30 million Facebook ‘likes’ and almost 15 million Twitter followers, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has built a solid following on social media. But critics say his new technology initiatives are unworthy of likes.

(AP/Press Trust of India)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, shakes hands with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a meeting in New Delhi, India, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014.

On September 27, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are set to lead a town hall question-and-answer session at Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

The Q&A session is an important part of Mr. Modi’s technology-focused visit to the US later this month. Besides meeting with President Obama in New York City on September 28, Modi has already scheduled appointments at Google's and Tesla's headquarters, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Mr. Zuckerberg announced the meeting in a Facebook post Sunday morning, where he wrote that the two will “discuss how communities can work together to address social and economic challenges.”

Modi shared news of the meeting on his Facebook page, and, as of Monday morning, his post has almost 80,000 likes and 6,000 shares.

Followers are likely unsurprised by Modi’s meeting with Zuckerberg after the prime minister unveiled his Digital India initiative in early July.

“I dream of a digital India where high speed digital highways unite the nation. I dream of a digital India where government is open and governance is transparent,” Modi said in his address on July 1. 

“Design in India is very important…” he added. “The talent of our youth must be utilized. And we must focus on designing in India.”

But not everyone is celebrating Modi’s approach to technology. Over 100 US professors sent a letter last week to the leaders of Silicon Valley tech companies protesting Modi’s Digital India initiative.

While the Indian prime minister claims that Digital India will transform his country into a digitally empowered knowledge economy, US professors argue the plan lacks privacy protection and could violate Indians’ rights.

“We urge those who lead Silicon Valley technology enterprises to be mindful of not violating their own codes of corporate responsibility when conducting business with a government which as, on several occasions already, demonstrated its disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as well as the autonomy of educational and cultural institutions,” said the letter.

The US professors urge the technology community to understand the reality of Modi’s first year in office, which has been marked, they say, by “well publicized episodes of censorship and harassment of those critical of his policies, bans and restrictions on NGOs leading to a constriction of the space of civic engagement, ongoing violations of religious freedom, and a steady impingement on the independence of the judiciary.”

Indians have been sending in their questions for the town hall meeting through the official Narenda Modi app. The public has voiced a range of frustrations, the most common include Facebook’s potential role in improving education and pleas to Zuckerberg to eliminate Candy Crush requests.

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