Facebook India accused of bias in user content regulation

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Indian Information Technology (IT) minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has attacked social media giant Facebook on of censoring content from right wing supporters amid rising tensions with in the country on how the platform regualtes user content.

In a letter written to Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg, IT Minister stated that he was made aware of Facebook’s India management team making a concerted effort to censor such content ahead of India’s 2019 election.

“The above documented cases of bias and inaction are seemingly a direct outcome of the dominant political beliefs of individuals in your Facebook India team,” Prasad wrote in his letter, without citing particular examples.

“Facebook must not only be fair and neutral, but also visibly seen to be so, to users of diverse beliefs and ideologies,” he remarked in the letter.

Facebook and its top lobbying executive in India, Ankhi Das, drew criticism from left-leaning opposition lawmakers after a prominent US media reported that she opposed applying hate-speech restrictions to some Hindu nationalist individuals and groups, fearing damage to Facebook’s business prospects.

Lawmakers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in turn accused Facebook of censoring nationalist voices and dismissed criticism that the US company was in any way favouring the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party.

Facebook said that it is a non-partisan platform that condemns bigotry and that it will continue to remove content posted by public figures when it violates its so-called community standards.

Mr. Prasad called on Facebook to put in place country-specific guidelines to regulate content within his letter to the CEO.

It was reported that even Facebook employees had in recent weeks questioned whether proper content regulation policies were being followed in India, and urged the social media giant to ensure more policy consistency.