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Facebook fails to check hate speech citing business concerns

Facebook has come under scrutiny after a report by an American newspaper; The Wall Street Journal claimed that the social media platform Facebook was biased in removing hate speech posts of a BJP leader and its group members. The move came after Facebook’s public policy director Ankhi Das refused to apply the hate speech rules to BJP leader T.
|| Rhythima Agrawal

Raja Singh and three others for instigating violence through their post. Das feared that the move could hurt Facebook’s interest in the country.

Referring to the hate speech posts by Singh, the current and former employees of Facebook stated that Das opposed strict intervention which is seen as a part of broader favouritism by the social media giant towards the ruling party in India. However, the Company spokesperson responded to the allegations. Andy Stone, Facebook Spokesperson, said that Das had raised concerns about the political fallout that would result from designating Singh: a dangerous individual. He further added that her opposition wasn’t the sole factor in determining the company’s decision to let the BJP leader remain on the platform. The spokesperson of Facebook said that they are considering the decision to ban Singh.

The US newspaper claimed that Das had helped the BJP in their election campaign. In April 2019, before voting began, Facebook announced it had taken down inauthentic pages tied to Pakistan’s military and the Congress party but did not disclose that it also removed pages with false news related to the BJP. In addition to it, it did not remove Singh and BJP leader Anant Kumar Hegde’s post until Wall Street Journal pointed at those posts. In its defence, Facebook said that it prohibits hate speech content and enforces the policies globally.

Professor Sudhir Krishnaswamy, the vice-chancellor of National Law School of India University and the only Indian member of Facebook’s new Oversight Board, declined to comment. He said, “I’m a part of the Independent Oversight Board. I do not represent or speak for FB”. He further added that the board would begin working in 6-8 weeks. Meanwhile, a political slugfest has broken between the leaders of the ruling party and Congress.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that the BJP controls Whatsapp and Facebook in India. Shashi Tharoor, a Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT and Kerala MP said, “Our parliamentary committee will consider testimony under the topic ‘safeguarding citizens’ rights & prevention and misuse of social/online news media platforms. The subject is squarely within the IT CMT’s mandate & Facebook”.

However, a minister from the BJP was quick to hit back. Ravi Shanker, the minister of IT and telecom, said that Congress does not have the right to question the BJP when Congress party was caught `red-handed’ in the attempt to `weaponise data’ before the 2019 elections.

Once again the BJP leaders are justifying their wrongdoings by asserting and blaming the earlier misdeeds of Congress. It is a new kind of plea emerging in the contemporary Indian politics to justify the wrongdoings by comparing with the past misdeeds of other political parties. In any case it would be interesting to see Facebook’s stand in this situation.

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