Social media giant Facebook has said that it is a “non-partisan platform” that is opposed to any form of hate and bigotry. It was responding to a letter from the Congress last month about its alleged nexus with the Bharatiya Janata Party and concerns about its hate speech policy.
“We are non-partisan and strive to ensure that out platform remains a space where people can express themselves freely,” Facebook’s Public Policy, Trust and Safety Director Neil Potts said in a letter addressed to Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal on September 1, according to a copy accessed by ANI. “We take allegations of bias seriously and want to make clear that we denounce hate and bigotry in all forms.”
Venugopal had written a letter to Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg on August 18, after a report in The Wall Street Journal exposed the social media giant’s alleged nexus with the BJP and its inaction on hate posts by certain party leaders. “There are clear charges in the article against the leadership of Facebook India of favouring one political party, the BJP, consistently and being complicit in propagating hate speech by political leader belonging to BJP,” Venugopal had said in the letter. “This is a damning and serious allegation of Facebook India’s interference in India’s electoral democracy.” He had also called for a high-level inquiry into the matter.
The Wall Street Journal report claimed that Facebook’s India policy head Ankhi Das had opposed the idea of removing incendiary posts by BJP leaders, warning that this could hurt their “commercial interests”. Das had also not revealed that Facebook had deleted fake news pages connected to the saffron party, according to the report.
The Congress wrote a second letter to Facebook on August 29, asking for details to the steps it took to investigate the hate speech allegations.
Facebook’s Neil Potts assured the Congress that it was taking actively taking down incendiary posts. “We have removed 22.5 million [2.25 crore] pieces of hate speech content from April to June in 2020, up from 1.6 million pieces [16 lakh] of hate speech in the last quarter of 2017,” the official said. “We know there is much more to do and we will continue to invest our efforts to combat hate speech on out services.”
The Congress acknowledged that it had received the letter from Facebook and said it hopes the social media giant will take concrete action on the allegations.
Facing immense pressure over accusations of ignoring hateful content, Facebook has banned BJP MLA from Telangana, T Raja Singh, who was named in the The Wall Street Journal report. In his posts, Singh had called Muslims traitors and had called for Rohingya refugees in India to be shot.
On Wednesday, Facebook India Head Ajit Mohan appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology in connection with the hate speech allegations. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who is the chairperson of the parliamentary panel, had said that the discussions with Facebook representatives will continue.
Facebook says policy decisions not unilateral
Facebook told Congress that its public policy decisions across the world were not made “unilaterally by one person” but a diverse team. The social media giant, however, made no mention of its India policy head Ankhi Das.
“Public Policy is a diverse team representing a varied political spectrum, who have either served in many administrations or have political experience and take immense pride in being active contributors to public service,” Facebook said. “This is the case not only in India but also globally. Together, we have a non-partisan approach in dealing with content and have designed systems to ensure we are enforcing policies globally without regard for anyone’s past political positions, party affiliation, or beliefs.”