Social media giant Facebook admitted Friday it has to do better to curb hate speech as it battled a storm over how it handled comments by a member of India’s ruling party who called Muslims traitors.
“We’ve made progress on tackling hate speech on our platform, but we need to do more,” Facebook India’s managing director Ajit Mohan said in a statement that denied any bias.
Facebook India executive refused to remove BJP hate speech
Hindu nationalist lawmaker T. Raja Singh posted comments and made speeches saying that Rohingya Muslim refugees should be shot and Muslims were traitors.
The Wall Street Journal last week reported that a top Facebook India executive refused to remove the comments of a BJP legislator because it would damage the company’s business interests.
“We’ve made progress on tackling hate speech on our platform, but we need to do more,” Facebook India’s managing director Ajit Mohan said on Friday in a statement that denied any bias.
Facebook is and always has been an open, transparent and non-partisan platform where people can express themselves freely. Over the last few days, we have been accused of bias in the way we enforce our policies: Facebook pic.twitter.com/XY9gOOyHkd
— ANI (@ANI) August 22, 2020
“Over the last few days, we have been accused of bias in the way we enforce our policies. We take allegations of bias incredibly seriously, and want to make it clear that we denounce hate and bigotry in any form,” said Mohan.
The Facebook India chief defended his company’s actions and said: “we have removed and will continue to remove content posted by public figures in India when it violates our community standards.”
“We will continue to invest in our efforts to combat hate speech on our services,” he added.
Mohan did not give details however and his online post did not explain the case of Raja Singh, a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Recently, Union Minister Mr Anurag Thakur and BJP MP Mr Parvesh Verma received a ban of 72 hours and 96 hours respectively from campaigning for the Delhi Elections. The reason behind the same was the ‘Hate Speech’ that they delivered in their respective rallies in Delhi. While Mr.
Thakur urged the crowd in a rally to shout “Goli Maaro (gun down the traitors)”, Mr Verma claimed in a rally that those who are protesting at Shaheen Bagh against the new Citizenship Law will one day enter the houses and rape sisters and daughters.
Facebook employees push for company to review toxic content
Facebook employees are pressing the company’s leadership to review its handling of hate speech in India, saying the company has tolerated toxic content by prominent political figures and failed to enforce its policies evenhandedly.
In a letter sent by members of the social-media giant’s internal group for Muslim employees, called Muslim@, staffers from India, the U.S. and the Middle East said Facebook needed to make its policy-enforcement process for high-profile users more transparent and less susceptible to political influence.
Facebook India’s top public policy executive, Ankhi Das, told staff that hate speech rules should not be applied to BJP individuals and party allies even though the post had been flagged by staff, the Journal reported.
— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) August 22, 2020
Mohan said that “decisions around content escalations are not made unilaterally by just one person”.
He insisted there were “robust checks and balances built in to ensure that the policies are implemented as they are intended to be and take into consideration applicable local laws.”
Speaking at the protest, JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh alleged that the government in power was targeting people for unjustified reasons and that “hate speech” was being celebrated in the country.
“Nowadays, hate speeches are being celebrated in the country. However, if people, specifical people from the Muslim community, raise their voice against the government, they are targeted and a sedition case is slapped against them,” Ms. Ghosh said.
“These policies are ever-evolving to take into account the local sensitivities especially in a multicultural society such as India,” Mohan said.
The BJP has not commented on the controversy though Raja Singh told one Indian newspaper his Facebook account had been hacked.
Opposition Congress party politicians have accused the company of favouring the BJP, and Facebook executives have been ordered to appear before an Indian parliamentary information technology committee on September 2.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk