Facebook Winks at BJP Leader’s Hate Posts Fearing Business Loss, Says Wall Street Journal Report

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Employees of the tech giant policing the platform had recommended that Singh be permanently banned from using Facebook but he is still active with hundreds of thousands of followers

Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Facebook deliberately ignored its own policy and refused to apply its own hate-speech rules against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader T. Raja Singh and three other Hindu nationalist individuals who were found involved in using the social media platform for promoting violence, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) investigation revealed on Saturday.

Singh, a legislator from Telangana notorious for provocative speeches, had written posts in which he said “Rohingya Muslim immigrants should be shot, called Muslims traitors, and threatened to raze mosques.”

Employees of the tech giant policing the platform had recommended that Singh be permanently banned from using Facebook but he is still active with hundreds of thousands of followers. This is because Ankhi Das, the company’s top public-policy executive for India, had opposed applying the hate-speech rules against the quartet.

She cited potential business loss to convince the staff members that they should not take action against the member of the BJP, the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is currently ruling India. “Ms. Das, whose job also includes lobbying India’s government on Facebook’s behalf, told staff members that punishing violations by politicians from Mr. Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country,” the WSJ report said.

Current and former employees told WSJ that Das had provided the saffron party with a favorable treatment on election-related issues. She has been accused of being biased towards the BJP as she once shared a post of a police official in which he called Muslims of India a “degenerate community” for whom “nothing except purity of religion and implementation of Shariah matter”.

“The way it has applied its hate-speech rules to prominent Hindu nationalists in India, though, suggests that political considerations also enter into the calculus.” The report observed.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in May that people should be “able to see what politicians say but there are lines, and we will enforce them.” He said this when he was asked about US President Donald Trump’s online activity.

The current and former Facebook employees told WSJ, “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 company spokesperson acknowledged interventions of Das but said it was not the only factor in the company’s decision to let Singh remain on the platform. The spokesman said Facebook was still considering whether a ban was warranted.

Facebook is often accused of bending its rules according to the “political realities” of a country despite claims of prohibiting hate speeches.

India is the biggest the biggest global market for Facebook in terms of number of users. In April, the company announced a tie- up with Reliance Jio and pledged an investment of $5.7 billion–its biggest foreign investment.

 The WSJ investigative report has triggered a conversation on social media in India with netizens raising questions over the conduct of Facebook in India.

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