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Facebook Could Be Grilled By Shashi Tharoor Over India Hate Speech Controversy

Facebook Could Be Grilled By Shashi Tharoor Over India Hate Speech Controversy

Parliamentary Panel chairperson Shashi Tharoor has said he would like to hear from Facebook

A report by the Wall Street Journal had revealed that Facebook refused to remove an anti-minority post by a BJP leader  

Facebook India’s head of public policy Ankhi Das allegedly warned staff members against removing such content

Facebook has found itself in the eye of a fresh storm in India following reports last week about its alleged inaction in certain hate speech cases involving BJP politicians and leaders. The social media giant now faces the prospect of being summoned by the parliamentary standing committee on information technology to answer questions on the alleged collusion.

“The panel would like to hear from Facebook in the normal course, consider testimony under the topic ‘safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms,” the committee’s chairman Shashi Tharoor was quoted as saying by the Times of India. The committee is slated to meet on September 1-2.

While Facebook, which over 300 Mn active users in India, has acknowledged there was “more to do” on prohibiting hate speech and it was “making progress on enforcement and conducting regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy”, the company has been under fire for filling its ranks with those close to India’s policy makers and ignoring content and posts which can be considered derogatory or inflammatory. 

The political slugfest embroiled Ankhi Das, Facebook’s public policy director for India, South and Central Asia, who filed a police complaint in New Delhi, citing “violent (online) threats to life and body.”  Das is said to be close to the higher-ups in the current BJP government and many of the cases reported by the original WSJ article involve BJP leaders. 

Facebook’s Wall Of Controversies

Last year, another alert raised by non-profit rights group Avaaz claimed that Facebook was letting many incidents scot-free, even as the company claimed to have taken action against  65% of the hate speech on its platform before users flagged them.

Avaaz claimed that Facebook is letting anti-Muslim hate speech spread unchecked across Assam, where the minority community is already being dogged by the National Registrar of India (NRC) issue. 

The social media company was said to have removed less than half of the 200 posts flagged by Avaaz. The group further highlighted that hate speech abuses often target Bengali Muslims.

Mired In Political Battles In US

The most recent issues in India bear a striking similarity to other reports earlier this month where Facebook’s vice president of global public policy Joel Kaplan was said to have intervened to “remove strikes” against conservative pages in the United States. 

In June 2020, dozens of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout in protest of the company’s decision not to take action against incendiary posts that President Donald Trump had made in the last week of May. 

These controversial posts included one post that seemed to threaten violence against protestors by saying, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” 

Twitter determined that the same message violated its rules against the glorification of violence and limited the concerned account’s ability to view, like, reply, and retweet the post on its platform.