American social media conglomerate Meta approved 14 advertisements containing disinformation and inflammatory content amid India’s parliamentary election, The Guardian reported on Monday, citing an investigation by two civil society organisations.

Among the advertisements that were approved were those that called for burning Muslims and executing a key Opposition leader.

The investigation was carried out by Ekō, a corporate accountability organisation and India Civil Watch International.

The two organisations, to test Meta’s mechanisms to block inflammatory content during India’s Lok Sabha election, created and submitted 22 advertisements to Meta’s ad library, the database of all advertisements on social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. They said that all the advertisements, created through artificial intelligence, violated Meta’s policies on hate speech and misinformation.

Fourteen of the 22 advertisements were approved by Meta within 24 hours, the organisations said. The investigation was carried out from May 8 to May 13, between the third and fourth phases of the Lok Sabha election.

The advertisements targeted Muslims with inflammatory references such as “let’s burn this vermin” and “Hindu blood is spilling, these invaders must be burned”, according to The Guardian. They reportedly used Hindu supremacist language and contained disinformation about political leaders.

One of the approved advertisements also contained messaging mimicking that of doctored video of Union home minister Amit Shah claiming to remove reservations for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe.

The investigators noted that Meta’s systems did not block incendiary advertisements created using artificial intelligence, even though the social media conglomerate has said it would prevent content manipulated through artificial intelligence from spreading during the Indian election.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Maen Hammad, a campaigner at Ekō told The Guardian: “Supremacists, racists and autocrats know they can use hyper-targeted ads to spread vile hate speech, share images of mosques burning and push violent conspiracy theories – and Meta will gladly take their money, no questions asked.”

A spokesperson for Meta said that those who want to run political advertisements “must go through the authorisation process required on our platforms and are responsible for complying with all applicable laws”.

The spokesperson further told The Guardian: “When we find content, including ads, that violates our community standards or community guidelines, we remove it, regardless of its creation mechanism.”

The fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections concluded on Monday. The sixth phase of voting will take place on May 25 while the seventh phase will conclude on June 1. The results will be announced on June 4.

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