Facebook India has found itself in the eye of a political storm. It has admitted that it can do better to curb hate speech allegedly by leaders linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Ajit Mohan, the platform’s India managing director, admitted that Facebook needs to do more and reiterated that the company denounces hate and bigotry in any form. “Our aim is to be an ally for India where our platforms preserve the pluralistic character of a democracy by offering the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things while also protecting society from broader harm,” he wrote in a blog. “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.”
However, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, top public policy executive at Facebook India, Ankhi Das told staff that hate speech should not be applied to BJP individuals and party allies even though the post has been flagged by staff. It highlighted a BJP legislator of Telangana, T Raja Singh used his Facebook page to say that Rohingya refugees in India should be shot and that Muslims were traitors. But the platform’s India chief defended Facebook’s actions. “We have removed and will continue to remove content posted by public figures in India when it violates our community standards,” Mohan said and added that decisions around content escalations are not made unilaterally by just one person.
With the political mudslinging, Facebook India employees have written a letter to their leadership demanding that ‘Facebook’s policy team in India and elsewhere includes diverse representation’. The letter, as per Reuters, says that it is hard not to feel frustrated and saddened by the incidents reported. We know we are not alone in this. Employees across the company are expressing a similar sentiment.
Not to let it go down easily, the Congress has demanded a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the charges outlined in the WSJ report, accusing Facebook of destabilising democracy through its inaction against hate speech. Supriya Shrinate, a Congress spokesperson, said that more often than not Facebook taking no action and even worse allows objectionable content to continue despite being brought to notice. Rahul Gandhi had also tweeted earlier that BJP and RSS control Facebook and WhatsApp in India. “They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook,” he said.