On 14 August, the Wall Street Journal, one of the leading daily of United States, made startling revelations about Facebook India which underlined the role of social media in spreading hate and violence against Muslims in India and other parts of the world.
According to the Journal’s report, the Facebook India’s public policy director Ankhi Das did not allow the Facebook employees to apply its hate speech rules against the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders including rabble rouser Raja Singh for calling violence against the minority community. In a Facebook post, Singh had called for killing Rohingya, who escaped the genocide in Myanmar, described Indian Muslims as traitor and talked about razing mosques.
“Mr. Singh not only had violated the company’s hate-speech rules but qualified as dangerous, a designation that takes into account a person’s off-platform activities,” the Facebook employees told the Journal.
“His rhetoric could lead to real-world violence, and he should be permanently banned from the company’s platforms world-wide,” argued the employees.
But Facebook India’s top official Das did not allow to ban Singh from the social networking site platform. Singh, who is known for making hate speeches and using violent languages, is continued to be Facebook and Instagram user. Instagram is also Facebook’s sister company. Not only Singh, there were three other BJP leaders against whom, the Facebook did not take action for making hate speeches. The Facebook India compromised with its own rules reportedly because it does not want to anger the ruling party which may put hurdles in its business in India. India has the highest user of the Facebook in the world.
The nasty game is not just about the business profit but there is also ideological connections between the Facebook India and the BJP. Ankhi Das, who stopped the employees to apply Facebook rules against the BJP leaders, also seems to nurse anti-Muslim sentiment. The Journal report noted that she had shared an anti-Muslim post through his Facebook account. Her sister is a Sangh group activist who believes in the Hindutva ideology. On the other hand, Facebook chief Mark Zukerberg and other top officials have met with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other union ministers and seems to have established a healthy relationship with the central government.
The expose about the Facebook-BJP collision has triggered the political storm in the country as the Congress has been raising the issue of unholy alliance between the ruling party BJP and the social media platform. Rahul Gandhi said the Facebook is being controlled by the BJP-RSS in India. Congress general secretary KC Venugopal wrote to the Facebook Inc chairman to order a high-level investigation into the allegations leveled into the role of their top officials in allowing to spread hatred.
“Set up a high level inquiry by Facebook headquarters into the Facebook India leadership team and their operations and submit a report to the Board of Facebook within one or two months. The report should also be made public,” Venugopal said in the letter.
However, what is deeply worrying is that this is not the first time it has been revealed that the Facebook had allowed hate speeches especially against Muslims. It had been pointed out earlier too but the social media platforms did not try to correct its mistakes. A report had revealed that how the Assam chauvinists were allowed to make hateful comments about the local Muslims by abusing them and using religious slurs against them.
Last year in June, South Asian advocacy group Equality Labs revealed that the Facebook did not apply its hate speeches rules against the user very frequently. 93 percent of all hate speech posts, which advocate violence, bully, has not been removed even after being reported by the monitoring group.
“Facebook has failed its caste, gender, and religious minority users. By its own community standards, it has not fulfilled the bare minimum required to ensure that hate speech and disinformation does not become normalized in the platform,” said Thenmozhi Soundararajan, one of the authors of the report.
In Myanmar, the Facebook platform has been used to incite violence against the persecuted community Rohingya but it had done nothing this flooding of hatful posts being circulated on its platform. Later, the Facebook admitted that its platform had been used to instigate violence against the Rohingyas and deleted the page of Myanmar army.
Apart from these reports, most of the common social media users encounter hateful and offensive comments on these platforms every day. These contents are not deleted by the Facebook even after being reported to them. There are fake news too which massively circulates on these platforms. Such activities are not just limited to Facebook and other social media platform also allowed hate speeches on a great scale.
Take WhatsApp, which is also run by Facebook, for example. A large scale of mob has been gathered and carried violence with the help of Whats App messages in Delhi riots. The police investigations have revealed as to how the rioters have planed the riots in Whats App groups and incited the users to come out with their weapons to kill people. A rioter said that he has come out to take part in rioting, killing and arson after he received a flood of messages about killing members of his community. Obviously, these messages, who had not truth, were mainly aimed to instigate the people to resort to violence. It will not be exaggeration if it is said that a large part of Delhi riots had been carried out with the help of Whats App. But the Whats App has allowed all these hateful and fake messages to be circulated on its platforms. The role of WhatsApp in Delhi riots must be investigated.
These social networking sites are going to any extent to expand their business and are not hesitant to make profit out of violence and hate. They are allowing such hateful contents because they are not being held accountable to follow the rules and regulations. They are not being responsible towards the harmony of the society. This hate for profit can burn the country and force it into civil war if they are stopped from this dangerous path. It is not only threat to peace of the country but also plays its role in the genocide as we have seen in Myanmar.