Facebook recently introduced new hate speech rules to curb unnecessary hate mongering on the social media platform. But, the company has been facing a tough time while implementing those rules in India. According to a report by Wall Street Journal (WSJ), a senior Facebook official in India was opposed to applying hate speech rules against leaders associated with the BJP and other Hindutva groups.
As per the report, Ankhi Das, who is Facebook’s top public policy executive in India, opposed applying hate speech rules to the BJP’s T. Raja Singh out of fear of ruining the company’s relationship with the ruling party.
The Wall Street Journal reported that in Facebook posts, "T. Raja Singh has said Rohingya Muslim immigrants should be shot, called Muslims traitors and threatened to raze mosques.”
Adding further, the publication said: “By March of this year, they concluded Mr. Singh not only had violated the company’s hate-speech rules but qualified as dangerous, a designation that takes into account a person’s off-platform activities, according to current and former Facebook employees." However, Das "opposed applying the hate-speech rules to Mr. Singh and at least three other Hindu nationalist individuals and groups flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence," The Wall Street Journal reported.
“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 report said, quoting unnamed current and former company officials.
WSJ reports further states that a Facebook spokeman, Andy Stone did admit that Das had concerns about a 'political fallout' that might arise from labelling Singh a dangerous person. The spokesperson also added that Facebook is still considering whether it will ban Singh.
Following questions from WSJ, Facebook apparently removed some controversial posts from Raja Singh's account and also revoked his 'verified' status. Facebook has reportedly taken down some posts by another controversial BJP leader, Karnataka MP Anantakumar Hegde, on Thursday.
The report also states that Das gave the BJP “favourable treatment on election-related issues”. "In April of last year, days before voting began in India’s general election, Facebook announced it had taken down inauthentic 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 Ms. Das intervened," former employees of Facebook told The Wall Street Journal.