There has been a massive leak of internal documents from Facebook and several whistleblowers have come forward to claim that the company is not doing enough to stop or curb hate speech and propaganda. But just how bad is the situation? As far as India is concerned, extremely bad, says a new report. The report notes that even in cases where Facebook identifies clear examples of hate speech and propaganda, mostly against Indian Muslims, it doesn't act.
A new report by the Wall Street Journal, which is based on documents leaked from Facebook, says Facebook researchers have repeatedly identified a sustained and widely prevalent anti-Muslim hate speech and propaganda on Facebook pages and groups in the last two years, and particularly after December 2019 when protests against CAA started.
However, despite their discoveries, notes the WSJ report, Facebook mostly ignored the findings of its own researchers and let the Facebook Pages and Groups spreading hate speech continue on the platform.
"Inflammatory content on Facebook spiked 300 per cent above previous levels at times during the months following December 2019, a period in which religious protests swept India, researchers wrote in a July 2020 report The researchers recommended one of the organizations be kicked off for violating the company's hate speech rules, according to one report, but the group remains active," notes the WSJ report.
It is not that Facebook is not aware of how some groups and people are using its platform to increase religious tensions in India. The WSJ report notes that "Facebook was so concerned about how its services were tied to communal conflict that it dispatched researchers to interview dozens of users."
However, says the report, when the recommendations were made Facebook mostly choose to not take any action.
In the aftermath of riots in Delhi in February 2020, Facebook India MD Ajit Mohan was called by Delhi Assembly's Peace and Harmony committee. The committee was trying to ascertain the circumstances that led to riots. However, instead of helping the committee Facebook decided to contest the summon. Facebook argued that the committee had no authority to seek inputs from its senior-most Indian executive. After lengthy court proceedings, the case was recently decided by the Supreme Court which said that the committee was empowered to call Facebook executives through it could not compel them to "answer any query from the committee directly regarding law, order and the police."
Earlier the WSJ also highlighted how Ankhi Das, the public policy head for Facebook in India, shielded groups spreading hate messages in India. Although Facebook denied anything was wrong, around two months after the report, Das resigned. Facebook at that time said that she was leaving to pursue "her interest in public service."
The latest WSJ report comes at a time when Facebook is facing increasing scrutiny in public. A bunch of its internal documents have been leaked and several whistleblowers are talking about how the company often puts profit ahead of public good. On Sunday, Frances Haugen, a whistleblower and ex Facebook employee, told a newspaper in the UK that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is totally unaccountable.
"Right now, Mark is unaccountable. He has all the control. He has no oversight, and he has not demonstrated that he is willing to govern the company at the level that is necessary for public safety," Haugen told the Observer.
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