Facebook’s blind eye to hate in India must stop says top panelists  

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The Indian American Muslim Council, an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has called on Facebook to take immediate action against India’s hate speech epidemic, which has directly led to violence in the past and will continue to have deadly consequences if left unchecked.

Frances Haugen, the whistleblower who has thrust Facebook under international scrutiny with her testimony, attended a Congressional Briefing on Thursday, November 4.

The briefing was co-hosted by 16 leading organizations from across the world who stand for fighting bigotry and racial inequality.

During the meeting experts discussed the way Hindu supremacists in India have thrived off Facebook and its related platforms, using social media to make anti-minority hatred mainstream.

India is Facebook’s largest market, with 340 million active users, and yet the company allocates only scant time and resources towards monitoring India-specific hate speech and fake news.

The sheer volume of anti-Muslim hate speech culminated in the 2020 Delhi pogroms, according to a report reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

“The Facebook paper confirms what we have been saying for a long time in terms of the harm the social media platform is doing to Muslims, Dalits, women, and refugees,” said Meetali Jain, Deputy Director of Reset. Tech with two decades of experience as a lawyer, academic, and campaigner.

Rohit Chopra, Associate Professor specializing in global and postcolonial media at Santa Clara University, said, “It is not hyperbole to say that in the Indian context, social media platforms already have blood on their hands.”

According to Haugen, Indian Facebook is awash with “dehumanizing posts comparing Muslims to ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs’ and misinformation claiming the Quran calls for men to rape their female family members.”

This report is consistent with criticisms human rights organizations have made of India since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.

This rhetoric trickles down from some of the most powerful figureheads of the Indian government, which in turn normalizes extremism among the general population.

Dr. Ritumbra Manuvie, a Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Foundation London Story, who has conducted empirical investigations into the effect of misinformation and hate speech on societies worldwide, stated that Facebook’s India platforms are awash with content that is both hateful and widely shared.

For instance, one popular post she discovered read, “My only goal in life is to exterminate Islam and kill Muslims.” The reactions are filled with likes, hearts, and laughing emojis. Neither post has been taken down by Facebook.

, stated that India has moved away from its pluralistic roots, normalizing open anti-Muslim and anti-minority hate speech.

“India operates on hate,” said Samina Salim, Associate Professor at the University of Houston. “This is not a problem that can be solved by ignoring it. We need policy interventions and international pressure. Lynching after lynching, pogrom after pogrom… this is no accident. This is deliberate.”

Facebook’s failures in India mirror its deadly role in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. If left unchecked, India’s hate speech problem could likely culminate in a similar genocide.

The Indian American Muslim Council is committed to working with human rights advocates in the US and in India to safeguard India’s pluralism and religious freedom for people of all faiths.