Facebook turned blind eye to BJP leader’s hate speech to protect its business, says WSJ report

A woman checks the Facebook Inc. site on her smartphone | Representational image | Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg

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New Delhi: Facebook India turned a blind eye to hate speech by a BJP leader and three other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups” to avoid damaging the social media platform’s business prospects in its biggest market, The Wall Street Journal reported this week

In a 14 August report headlined “Facebook’s Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics”, The Wall Street Journal has quoted former and current Facebook employees as saying that the aforementioned accounts, flagged for “promoting or participating in violence”, were spared a ban at the intervention of the company’s top public policy executive in the country, Ankhi Das.

Reached for comment by ThePrint, Facebook sought to reject the notion that political compulsions were a factor in its decision-making. Facebook said it prohibits “hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation”. 

The BJP leader cited in the WSJ report is Telangana MLA T. Raja Singh, who has been associated with multiple provocative social media posts against Muslims. “The current and former Facebook employees said Ms. Das’s intervention on behalf of Mr. Singh is part of a broader pattern of favoritism by Facebook toward Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and Hindu hard-liners,” the report adds.

According to the report, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone “acknowledged that Ms. Das had raised concerns about the political fallout that would result from designating Mr. Singh a dangerous individual, but said her opposition wasn’t the sole factor in the company’s decision to let Mr. Singh remain on the platform”. 

“The spokesman said Facebook is still considering whether a ban is warranted,” the report added, quoting Facebook as saying that Singh “is no longer permitted to have an official, verified account, designated with a blue check mark badge.

Neither Das, Singh, nor the BJP responded to requests for comment from the WSJ, the newspaper said, adding that the Prime Minister’s Office spokesperson declined to comment.

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