Facebook believes India at high risk of social violence, yet drags feet on taking action against hate speech
A report says that Facebook believes India is at a heightened risk of social violence.
Facebook has so far refrained from taking action against groups like Bajrang Dal.
The report notes Facebook is vary of acting against hate speech in India.
India is a complex country. Facebook, for which India is its fastest-growing market and also one of the most important, apparently knows this. A new report says that internally Facebook has categorized India as a Tier One country when it comes to the risk of heightened “societal violence”.
In other words, the social media company deems India potentially as bad a case as Myanmar and Sri Lanka where Facebook has been used to ignite and sustain inter-religious violence.
Strangely, despite believing that India has a potential for social violence, Facebook has gone slow when it comes to deleting and restricting Indian groups and people spreading fake information and hate speech.
The report by Wall Street Journal notes that despite deeming groups like Bajrang Dal “dangerous”, the company hasn’t moved to remove the groups from Facebook because internal security audit teams at the company believe that this may anger these groups and they may target businesses, offices and Facebook staff in India.
After Bajrang Dal was deemed a “dangerous organization” by Facebook around a year ago, the investigation on its use of Facebook is now “blocked” within the social media company. In other words, apparently, no action can be taken against it as per this status. This information was revealed to the media by unnamed Facebook employees.
The report also notes that Facebook is also varied in taking action against hate speech in India because a lot of groups and people indulging in it are close to the ruling party BJP, and that may impact Facebook’s business in India.
However, the WSJ was told by a Facebook spokesperson that the company’s policy on hate speech is not influenced by political or business reasons. Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told the WSJ, “We enforce our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy globally without regard to a political position or party affiliation.”
This is not the first time Facebook is dragging its feet on tackling hate speech in a country. The company has come under fire for not acting against hate speech in nations like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Two years ago investigators from United Nations cited Facebook for facilitating hate speech in Myanmar, helping fuel the sectarian violence against Rohingyas
“It has … substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public. Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media,” said Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
Several months ago, Facebook was in news in India after it was reported that its then India policy head Ankhi Das stopped staffers from taking action against hate speech by BJP politicians. The Report was refuted by Facebook, although in late October Ankhi Das left the company saying she wanted to “pursue public service interests”.
Facebook’s India MD Ajit Mohan has been called for a hearing by a Delhi government committee that is looking into the use of social media during riots earlier in the year. However, Mohan has refused to appear before the committee and has challenged the Delhi government directives in the Supreme Court.