Facebook is facing some tough questions in India

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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In India, Facebook is in the midst of an uproar over a US media article that says the social media giant ignored hate speech and offensive material from leaders and staff of the ruling party.

India is the social media giant’s biggest market in terms of users.

The article from a major international daily, titled “Facebook Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics” that company executives resisted the attempt to ban controversial politicians, and that Facebook looks the other way in cases of hate speech and offensive material from leaders and workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The journal also claimed that an executive had said that punishing BJP workers’ violations “would hurt the market prospects of the company in the country.” The report cited current and former employees while saying that Facebook has a “broader history of favoritism” toward the BJP.

Facebook maintains that it enforces hate speech policies “without regard to the political position or party affiliation of anyone.”

The report has become the most recent flash point between the ruling and opposition parties in the country with Congress (opposition) citing the report as evidence of the BJP ‘s alleged misuse of social media. They accused the BJP of using Facebook and WhatsApp to spread “fake news” to influence the elections.

Congressman Shashi Tharoor, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, said the panel wished to hear about the study from Facebook.

Shashi Tharoor image“The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from Facebook about these reports and what they propose to do about hate-speech in India.”

Shashi Tharoor
Head, Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee, Information Technology.

In March 2018, a year before the general election, it was reported that the controversy involving UK company Cambridge Analytica – accused of manipulating data from millions of Facebook users to help elect US President Donald Trump in 2016 – may have ties to elections in India as well.