India is one of the top growing markets of Facebook followed by United States. It is even reported that internally Facebook has categorised India as a Tier One country when it comes to the risk of heightened “social violence”.
This means social media giant believes India is potentially as bad as Myanmar and Sri Lanka where Facebook has been used to ignite and sustain inter-religious violence.
According to a report by Wall Street Journal, this year the social-media company’s safety team deemed Bajrang Dal supported violence against minorities across India and likely qualified as a “dangerous organisation” that should be banned from the platform.
However Facebook hasn’t taken any action to remove the groups from Facebook because internal security audit teams at the company believe that this may anger these groups and they may target business, offices and Facebook staff in India.
The WSJ report believes that such conflicting concerns underscore the struggle Facebook faces in curbing hate speech that spread like a wild fire through the platform. Facebook has recently invested $5.7 billion in a new retail venture in India which makes the issue more difficult because a lot of groups and people indulging in it are close to the ruling party BJP.
The social- media company fears strict actions against such hate-mongering group will impact their business. However, the WSJ was told by a Facebook spokesperson that the company’s policy on hate speech is not influenced by political or business reasons. Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told the WSJ, “We enforce our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy globally without regard to a political position or party affiliation.”
This is not the first time Facebook is dragging its feet on tackling hate speech in a country. The company has come under fire for not acting against hate speech in nations like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. Two years ago investigators from United Nations cited Facebook for facilitating hate speech in Myanmar, helping fuel the sectarian violence against Rohingyas.
Several months ago, Facebook was in spotlight in India for all the wrong reasons as it was reported that its then India Policy Ankhi Das stopped staffers from taking action against hate speech by BJP politicians. Facebook refuted the report, but in late October Ankhi Das left the company saying she wanted to “pursue public service interests”.
Facebook’s India MD Ajit Mohan has been called for a hearing by a Delhi government committee that is looking into the use of social media during riots earlier in the year. However, Mohan has refused to appear before the committee and has challenged the Delhi government directives in the Supreme Court.