Facebook India head Ajit Mohan told a parliamentary panel on Wednesday that the social media giant had found no need to act against Hindutva group Bajrang Dal despite an internal security team flagging it as a “dangerous organisation” that supported violence against minorities in India, PTI reported.
The Bajrang Dal is part of the Sangh Parivar, the larger family of right-wing organisations affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The RSS is also the ideological mentor of India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Mohan was summoned by the parliamentary Information Technology Panel led by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor to discuss the data safety of users. The panel also grilled Facebook about inaction on its own internal report, according to Hindustan Times.
The Facebook India head told the panel that the company’s fact-checking team did not find any content that necessitated a ban on the group. Mohan also refuted the Wall Street Journal report on Facebook’s reluctance to act against the Bajrang Dal, calling it “factually untrue”, The Times of India reported. He added that people quoted in the article had no “knowledge or authority” to comment on the company’s decisions. Mohan, however, did not respond to the panel’s question on why Facebook did not ask WSJ to correct its facts.
- Facebook did not ban Bajrang Dal due to concern for employees’ safety, business prospects: Report’
- Ankhi Das’ track record at Facebook will make her successor’s unenviable job even harder
- Why the allegations about Facebook favouring the BJP are so significant for Indian politics
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Facebook did not ban Bajrang Dal from its platform due to political and business considerations, and concern for employees’ safety. Apart from Bajrang Dal, Facebook’s security team also warned against banning two other right-wing groups, Sanatan Sanstha and Sri Ram Sena, from the platform.
Though the safety team had said that the organisations should be banned from the platform, the company did not take any action after an internal report from the security team warned that a crackdown on the group “might endanger both the company’s business prospects and its staff in India”.
“Besides risking infuriating India’s ruling Hindu nationalist politicians, banning Bajrang Dal might precipitate physical attacks against Facebook personnel or facilities,” the internal report had said.
WSJ’s latest report revived the controversy around Facebook’s inaction on hate posts by BJP leaders. The newspaper had reported in August that Facebook’s India’s Public Policy Director Ankhi Das opposed the idea of removing incendiary posts by BJP leaders, warning that this could hurt the company’s “commercial interests” in its biggest market, India.
Das stepped down from her position on October 27. A parliamentary IT panel led by Shashi Tharoor had summoned Das for questioning. She was questioned for two hours by the members, who reportedly asked her some “tough and searching questions”. In September, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology had also questioned Facebook India head Ajit Mohan.
Several other reports have also emerged of Facebook favouring the BJP. According to one such report, Facebook removed 14 of the 44 pages flagged by the BJP for being opposed to it in January 2019. In August, it had also emerged that the BJP was the top advertiser on Facebook on “social issues, elections and politics” over the previous 18 months, according to the social media platform’s advertising spending tracker information.