Facebook has given a clarification following allegations that the social media giant ignored applying its hate speech rules for politicians aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India.
A Facebook spokesperson told Reuters that the company has prohibited hate speech and inciteful content.
"We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally regardless of anyone's political position or party affiliation," the Facebook spokesperson said.
The spokesperson further assured that Facebook was making progress on enforcement and conducting regular audits to ensure fairness and accuracy.
"While we know there is more to do, we're making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy," it said.
In the report published on Friday, the US newspaper Wall Street Journal alleged that Facebook ignored its hate speech policy and allowed anti-Muslim posts on its platform to avoid ruining its relationship with PM Modi-led BJP.
The US daily cited the example of BJP Telangana MP T Raja Singh and his statement about Rohingya Muslim immigrants. The daily claimed that top executive of Facebook India, Ankhi Das, opposed the application of hate-speech rules to members of the ruling BJP.
A political slugfest has erupted between the Congress and the BJP following the aforementioned news report in the country.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has accused the BJP and Hindu nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of spreading "fake news" using Facebook and WhatsApp to influence the electorate.
"BJP & RSS control Facebook & 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," Gandhi tweeted.
BJP & RSS control Facebook & Whatsapp in India.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 16, 2020
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. pic.twitter.com/Y29uCQjSRP
Hitting back, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted, "Losers who cannot influence people even in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP and RSS. You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook to weaponise data before the elections and now have the gall to question us," he said.
Losers who cannot influence people even in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP & RSS.— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) August 16, 2020
You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica & Facebook to weaponise data before the elections & now have the gall to question us? https://t.co/NloUF2WZVY
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, said the panel would like to hear from Facebook about the report.
"The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from Facebook about these reports and what they propose to do about hate-speech in India," he tweeted.
Our Parliamentary committee will, in the normal course, consider testimony under the topic “Safeguarding citizens’ rights & prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”. The subject is squarely within the IT Cmt’s mandate& @Facebook has been summoned in the past. https://t.co/saoK8B7VCN— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) August 16, 2020
BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, reacting to Tharoor's comments, said the subjects which are permissible and are in accordance with rules of parliamentary standing committees could be raised.
But at the same time, he added that these panels should not be made a political platform by members to satisfy the "ego of their respective party leaders".
Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken, at a virtual press conference, demanded a JPC probe into the charges that Facebook ignored its hate speech policy in dealing with BJP lawmakers.
He said Facebook global should also hold a probe to ascertain the alleged links of some of its employees with the ruling party, to help protect its own credibility.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted: "Facebook-Whatsapp sinister connection to BJP Government exposed."
Facebook Inc's WhatsApp, which counts India as its biggest market with 400 million users, is waiting for regulatory clearances to launch a payment platform.
Facebook has also invested $5.7 billion in Reliance Industries' digital unit, with the aim of serving tens of millions of small shops across India.
(With agencies input)