WSJ report that ‘Facebook allowed BJP hate speech’ stirs storm


The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report that alleged that Facebook allowed hate speech by ruling BJP politicians in India has stirred up a political storm in that country.

The WSJ report alleged that Facebook’s director, public policy, India, South & Central Asia opposed applying the hate-speech rules to BJP politicians and groups flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence.

The official, according to the WSJ, told employees that punishing violations by politicians from Narendra Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in India, Facebook’s biggest global market by number of users.

The report alleged that days before the Indian general elections, in April 2019, Facebook announced it had taken down fake pages tied to Pakistan’s military and the Congress party, the BJP’s main rival party. But it didn’t disclose it also removed pages with false news tied to the BJP,” because the Facebook official intervened.

A police case was filed Tuesday against the Facebook official, Ankhi Das (and two others), in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, for “hurting religious sentiments”. Das has also filed a police complaint alleging threats to her life.

The Delhi state Assembly committee has decided to summon Das in connection with the riots in India’s capital city earlier this year.

Raghav Chadha, chair of the Delhi Assembly’s committee on peace and harmony, said in statement: “Significantly, a BJP leader has been mentioned in the Wall Street article as another hate-monger spared by Facebook. Interestingly, in a video featuring Mark Zuckerberg the Facebook CEO is seen) quoting the contents of that BJP leader’s post as categorically offensive and hateful.

Despite this, officials of Facebook have been alleged to turn a blind eye to hate speech and communal hatred mongers,”he added. “In view thereof it compels the committee to take immediate notice and get to the root of this issue with a view to painstakingly discern if there is any role or complicity of Facebook official in the orchestration of Delhi riots.”

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate was quoted as saying that it was not a “Congress versus BJP matter”.

It is about India’s democracy and society. Instead of refuting The Wall Street Journal report or investigating the nexus, the government is attacking the Congress. We are raising concerns for democracy,” she said. “In many countries, Facebook has removed pages and has issued press releases for that, citing ‘coordinated inauthentic behavior.’ But why has Facebook never done something similar with rumor mongering and hate speeches in India?”

Derek O’Brien, a member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of India’s Parliament, from Bengal, had June 25 last year accused Facebook being in nexus with the BJP.

Facebook’s senior management in India are de facto campaign managers for the BJP,” O’Brien had alleged in Parliament. “Facebook’s Delhi office is virtually an extended BJP IT cell, and, I am saying this with all responsibility, Facebook censored anti-BJP news and put other parties in jeopardy. The Facebook algorithm censors anti-BJP content.

Now, I come to WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. I don’t want to dwell on WhatsApp. Everybody knows about WhatsApp,” he had added. “I have got one lovely quote of September 2018. ‘We are capable of delivering any message we want to the public whether it is sweet or sour, true or fake; we can do this only because we have 32 lakh people in our WhatsApp groups. This is how we can make everything viral. Wow.’ The person who said this in September 2018 is now the home minister of India. Where are we headed? And, of course, in return, the Facebook got a lot of other benefits.”