The Delhi Legislative Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee, chaired by Aam Aadmi Party MLA Raghav Chadha, on Thursday questioned former Facebook employee Mark S Luckie, regarding allegations that the social media company did not properly apply hate speech rules and policies, contributing to the communal violence that hit the city in February.
Luckie was a former Facebook strategic partner manager for global influencers. He quit the company in 2018 after accusing it of “failing its Black employees” and of not doing enough to address its lack of diversity, according to The Indian Express.
In a statement, the panel said that Luckie made “extremely scathing revelations” on the internal functioning of Facebook during his deposition before the panel via video conference, PTI reported.
He also claimed that the social media giant’s community standards have been compromised due to “repeated interference” by top Facebook officials, including policy heads, at the behest of political parties. The executive team of the social media giant, including its Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, are “generally aware of such gross inaction and misappropriation” of the community standards and other policies of the company, he added.
According to the statement issued by Chadha, Luckie alleged that top managerial posts at Facebook are given to those who have “strong governmental associations or political affiliations”. On whether there is a implicit bias for pro-establishment figures during recruitment, he said: “It is more often the rule than the exception. Facebook would like the world to believe it is politically agnostic to maintain a safe image...it isn’t.”
The former employee, the committee said, also maintained that events like the Delhi communal violence, Myanmar genocide and Sri Lanka’s communal violence “could have been easily averted” had Facebook acted in a “more proactive and prompt manner”.
“The witness during the course of deposition made extremely scathing revelations on the internal functioning of Facebook, thus giving insights on the entire organisational structure of Facebook globally as well as regionally,” the committee’s statement read.
Luckie also told the Delhi Assembly panel that hateful posts are flagged to supervisors depending on the number of people reporting them, and involvement of higher level executives is based on the scale and magnitude of an event.
“Facebook will tell you, they are just like the telephone...it’s not telephone or email,” Luckie added. “It actively interferes in what people see and what they don’t. It changes its algorithm, allows certain content to stay up and...be taken down. So Facebook does influence, aid a lot of this violence and misinformation to continue. Unfortunately, people are dying because of it, that...needs to be stopped.”
He said Facebook’s active interference in what people see and don’t see on the platform contributes to a lot of violence and misinformation.
Facebook is facing intense political scrutiny in India, its biggest market by users, after The Wall Street Journal on August 14 reported that former Facebook India policy head Ankhi Das had opposed removing incendiary posts by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders. After the controversy, Facebook banned BJP MLA from Telangana, T Raja Singh, for violating its hate speech policies in September. Singh had earlier called Muslims traitors and posted that Rohingya refugees in India should be shot.
Das stepped down from her post on October 27 after the controversy. Das, who served as the public policy head of Facebook India, South and Central Asia, was resigning to pursue her interest in public service, Facebook India head Ajit Mohan said in a statement.
A memo by a data scientist who was fired from Facebook Inc has also revealed that the social media company ignored or has been slow to deal with fake accounts that have affected elections around the world. Sophie Zhang said she worked to remove “a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence” the Delhi Assembly elections on February 8. Zhang added that she “worked through sickness” to remove this, but the social media company never publicly disclosed this network or that it had taken it down.