Eleven Facebook employees, in an open letter to the company’s leadership, have demanded that it should acknowledge and denounce “anti-Muslim bigotry” and ensure more policy consistency, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
The letter comes five days after an article in the Wall Street Jounal, which alleged that a top Facebook India official turned a blind eye to hate speech by a BJP leader and three other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups” to avoid damaging the social media platform’s business prospects.
“It is hard not to feel frustrated and saddened by the incidents reported… We know we’re not alone in this. Employees across the company are expressing similar sentiment… The Muslim community at Facebook would like to hear from Facebook leadership on our asks,” Reuters quoted the letter as saying.
The agency also quoted sources as saying that Facebook employees in the United States and around the world are raising questions about whether adequate procedures and content regulation practices were being followed by the India team.
The report drew strongly-worded reactions on Twitter, with some condemning the “free pass” for hate speech by right-wing leaders on the platform, and others questioning the silence of media outlets in India on the issue.
@Facebook employees have some questions about #AnkhiDas and the free pass that rightwing bigoted hate speech gets on FB India.https://t.co/UuEfNPc0Af
— Cassandra ranjona banerji: prophet of doom (@ranjona) August 19, 2020
Another foreign publication follows up the Facebook India fiasco, meanwhile the press, think tanks, journalists in India are busy defending.Facebook and its employeeshttps://t.co/XyMaLFZvTh
— Cyril Sam (@cyrilsam) August 19, 2020
Some Facebook employees are showing more spine than most of the Indian media. But looks like the line from top management is, as usual, that they have done nothing wrong. https://t.co/jMkK4cu8MO
— visvak (@visvak) August 19, 2020
According to the Wall Street Journal report, the speeches made by BJP leader T Raja Singh and other Hindu nationalist leaders were “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence”. However, Ankhi Das, the public policy director of Facebook’s India, South and Central Asia division, opposed applying hate speech rules to them, the report said.
In Facebook posts and public speeches, Singh allegedly said Rohingya Muslim immigrants should be shot, called Muslims traitors and threatened to raze mosques.
The WSJ report has sparked off a political slugfest in India, with Congress leader Shashi Tharoor saying that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology “would certainly wish to hear” from Facebook about the allegations. Tharoor is the chairperson of the committee on Information Technology.
In response, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, a member of the committee, claimed that Tharoor was using the committee’s platform for politics. He also alleged that Tharoor decided to call Facebook officials to satisfy the ego of Rahul Gandhi who had alleged that BJP and RSS were controlling the social media platform.
Both Tharoor and Dubey have sought breach of privilege proceedings against each other after the spat.
On Tuesday, the Congress wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, demanding a probe into the alleged “bias” and interference of the social media giant’s India leadership team in the country’s electoral democracy. In response, the BJP took a swipe at the Opposition party, saying any organisation that does not work to its liking is accused of acting under BJP-RSS pressure.
Reacting to the controversy, Facebook had on Monday said the company’s social media platform prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence, adding these policies are enforced globally without regard to political affiliation.
“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,” a Facebook spokesperson had said.
With inputs from PTI