Facebook Tolerates Hate-Speech Against Muslims to Appease Hindu Nationalists in India

Remigio Civitarese
Agosto 16, 2020

In what highlights the challenges of policing content by social media platforms, The Wall Street Journal has reported that citing business imperatives, Facebook's top public policy executive in India "opposed applying hate-speech rules" to at least four individuals and groups linked with the BJP despite the fact that they were "flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence".

Facebook India's Public Policy Director Ankhi Das told staff members that "punishing violations" by BJP politicians "would damage the company's business prospects in the country, Facebook's biggest global market by number of users", WSJ reported. An investigation by the Wall Street Journal revealed that a top official at Facebook feared angering India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if it would censor hate-speech against Muslims originating from a party official.

According to the media report, several posts by Singh and BJP MP Anantkumar Hegde, which were filled with anti-Muslim rhetoric, were not deleted by Facebook until it was brought to their attention by Wall Street Journal reporters.

"A Facebook spokesman, Andy Stone, acknowledged that Ms. Das had raised concerns about the political fallout that would result from designating Mr. Singh a unsafe individual, but said her opposition wasn't the sole factor in the company's decision to let Mr. Singh remain on the platform", The Wall Street Journal reported.

Following his post, internal Facebook staff had suggested banning the BJP MLA account under a policy called "Dangerous Individuals and Organizations", but Das refused to take action against Singh.

Stone said Facebook is "still considering whether a ban is warranted".

In addition to this, unnamed former employees quoted by the United States newspaper claim that Das had also provided the BJP with "favourable treatment on election-related issues".

The team headed by Das "took no action after BJP politicians posted content accusing Muslims of intentionally spreading the coronavirus, plotting against the nation and waging a "love jihad" campaign by seeking to marry Hindu women", a former Facebook employee told The Wall Street Journal.

According to current and former employees Das provided "favourable treatment" to BJP on election-related issues.

But it was only after WSJ inquired about the posts that Facebook deleted some of them. Following questions from The Wall Street Journal, Facebook apparently removed some controversial posts from Raja Singh's account and also revoked his "verified" status (signified by a blue tick).

In April 2019, Facebook announced it had taken down inauthentic pages tied to the Pakistani military and India's Congress party. But what it didn't disclose was that after Das's intervention, pages with false news traced to the BJP were also removed. Facebook removed some of them on Thursday.

Das also wrote an essay in 2017 praising Modi, which he posted to his website, reported WSJ. Singh has a long history of making problematic and hateful remarks about India's Muslim community.

Another lawmaker from the party, Kapil Mishra warned police in a speech to remove protesters demonstrating against the anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act and that if they did not, force would be used by his supporters to do so.

Not long after Mishra uploaded the video to Facebook, communal rioting broke out that left dozens of people dead, a lot of them Muslims.

"[Facebook's Mark] Zuckerberg had cited Mishra's post, without naming him, in an employee town hall meeting in June, as an example of the sort of behavior that the platform wouldn't tolerate from a politician", the report said, adding that the company removed the video.

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