With four states headed for elections, Facebook India is taking measures to tackle hate speech, as part of its efforts to curb the spread of misinformation. The social media platform will temporarily reduce the distribution of content from accounts that have recently and repeatedly violated the company’s policies.
The platform is now taking steps to enhance civic engagement, combat hate speech, limit misinformation and remove voter suppression. Moreover, fact-checkers will provide people with additional context about the content they see on Facebook, including in Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam and Assamese – the main languages of the regions where elections are being held.
Facebook India, in an official blog post, said it recognizes that there are certain types of content, such as hate speech, that could lead to imminent, offline hate. “To decrease the risk of problematic content going viral in these states, and potentially inciting violence ahead of or during the election, we will significantly reduce the distribution of content that our proactive detection technology identifies as likely hate speech or violence and incitement.”
The blog said that content will be removed if found to be violating Facebook’s policies, but its distribution will remain reduced until that determination is made. “Facebook recognizes its role in creating an informed society. Thus, it will also be reminding people to exercise their right to vote. It has come up with Election Day reminders in order to give voters accurate information and encourage voters.”
In the past, Facebook has drawn flak for its handling of hate speech on the platform in the country. India is among the biggest markets for Facebook and its group companies, WhatsApp and Instagram. According to government data, India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 41 crore Facebook users and 21 crore Instagram users.
In August 2020, the opposition Congress sought a parliamentary panel probe into Facebook’s alleged favourable treatment to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This came after a report in the WSJ highlighted that Facebook and WhatsApp had refused to bar a BJP lawmaker for his hateful posts.