Facebook is facing heat in India, its biggest market by users, over a report that claimed the company compromised its hate speech policy to favor the ruling party.
The debate was sparked by a Wall Street Journal report on Friday that claimed Ankhi Das, Facebook’s top public-policy executive in India, had opposed applying the company’s hate-speech rules to a member of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party. The report added that posts from at least three more members of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) individuals and groups were flagged internally for “promoting or participating in violence.”
According to the report which cited current and former employees, Das said Punishing violations by politicians from Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country. Politicians from the BJP, which rules the government in India, and opposition Indian National Congress (INC) lambasted Facebook for its supposed favoritism to the other, thereby taking a political stand in the country. Lawmakers of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have accused the social media giant of censoring nationalist voices after the opposition Congress seized on a Wall Street Journal report to seek a parliamentary investigation of Facebook employees' alleged ties with the ruling party. Rahul Gandhi of Indian National Congress, who until mid-last year served as its president, tweeted over the weekend that “BJP controls Facebook and WhatsApp in India. “They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate.” Member of Parliament Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore accused Facebook of being “left-leaning in India.” He wrote “Merely scratching the surface reveals how this storm in a teacup is merely an exercise to browbeat Facebook for ‘allowing’ certain opinions to even exist. It is no secret globally that Facebook has been hauled up by various government bodies for controlling the flow of facts, In India, too, we have seen examples of Facebook filtering out non-Left and non-Congress viewpoints through manufactured labels of ‘fake news.’ They are even accused of using shadow banning algorithms,” In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said the platform prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence and that it enforces. “We’re making progress on enforcement and conducting regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy,” the statement follows.