Facebook Allowed Itself to Be Used to Spread Hate Speech: Report

A TIME report has highlighted that Facebook and WhatsApp have been willingly used to spread hate speech.

Tech News
3 min read

“Facebook India’s attitude (towards hate speech) is utterly flippant, callous, uninterested,” says Awaaz, a watchdog group that monitors hate speech on social media platforms.

As per revelations made by TIME, Facebook and WhatsApp have been used to spread hate speech and misinformation.

It also says that the two platforms have been at the core of abetting deadly attacks on minority groups amid rising communal tensions across India.

The report comes weeks after The Wall Street Journal published a report detailing how Facebook failed to take action against hate speech being spread by leaders of the BJP on its platform.


Help On the Inside

The TIME report mentions that the then Facebook’s public policy director for India and South Asia, Shivnath Thukral, ignored some of the key violations that were pointed out by Avaaz.

As per the report, Shiladitya Dev, an Assamesee lawmaker for PM Modi’s BJP, shared a news report about a girl being allegedly drugged and raped by a Muslim man in 2019. He added his own comment to the post: “This is how Bangladeshi Muslims target our [native people] in 2019.”

Facebook didn’t remove that post and allowed it to remain online for more than a year after it had been flagged by Awaaz. It was only removed after TIME contacted Facebook to ask about it on 21 August.

“We failed to remove upon initial review, which was a mistake on our part,” Facebook said.

It also failed to remove a copy of the video of BJP politician Kapil Mishra spreading hate speech that was uploaded to Facebook which remained online for six months before being flagged by TIME.

Thukral was also involved in making decisions on how to deal with posts by politicians that were flagged for violations of hate speech rules during the 2019 elections.

Some activists seem to be so frustrated with India’s policy team that they have begun to bypass the entire process of reporting hate speech, the report said.

A Lapse in Judgment?

The TIME report also says that Facebook has been reluctant in dealing with posts by members and supporters of the BJP as it “doesn’t want to pick fights” with the government in power.

Former employees of Facebook India say that people responsible for managing the relationship with the government also take the key decisions on whether politicians should be punished for hate speech or not.

Despite this, the company’s managing director has denied any bias toward any political party in a 21 August blog post. The WSJ report highlighted how Facebook’s top policy official in India, Ankhi Das, thwarted some of Facebook’s employees who wanted to label a BJP politician as a “dangerous individual” and ban him from the platform after he called for Muslim immigrants to be shot.


Friendly Ties

The TIME report echoes some of the points highlighted by the WSJ report about Facebook India’s ties with the ruling party.

To start with, the TIME report points out that Shivnath Thukral had worked with the BJP leadership to assist in the party’s 2014 election campaign.

Facebook employees told TIME that the reason Thukral was hired in 2017 was due to his close ties with the BJP. The article talks about how Thukral, in the 2014 elections, worked with senior party officials to help run a pro-BJP website and Facebook page.

Now, Thukral is WhatsApp’s India public policy director which has the responsibility of managing the company’s relationship with the ruling government.


‘Shame On Zuckerberg’

Civil rights lawyer and one of the founding members of the Aam Aadmi Party, Prashant Bhushan, called out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the platform’s inability to take timely action.

Dan Stewart, the international editor at TIME, highlighted Facebook’s claim of having “no bias”, yet commissioning an independent report on the impact of human rights in India.

Marketing consultant and author Aparna Jain also expressed her views on the TIME report:

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