Over the past year, Facebook in India has repeatedly battled allegations of bias. After speculation about the BJP's alleged links with the company, it is now the Bajrang Dal which is in the eye of controversy. But even as many allege that the organisation supported violence against minorities, Facebook says that there has been no controversial post that could lead it to a ban from the platform.
Facebook's fact-checking team has not found any content that necessitates a ban on the Bajrang Dal, the social media giant's India head Ajit Mohan told a parliamentary panel on Wednesday, sources said. He was accompanied by Shivnath Thukral, the public policy director of Facebook.
Mohan deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. The panel had called him on the issue of the citizens' data safety.
A recent report by The Wall Street Journal had alleged that the company was unwilling to take action against the right-wing organisation fearing retaliation from multiple quarters. The publication quoted an internal Facebook report to suggest that the company feared the risk of infuriating India's ruling Hindu nationalist politicians as well as the possibility of physical attacks against Facebook personnel or facilities. Not to mention, the possibility of jeopardising its own business interests.
According to a PTI report, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram, along with Tharoor had questioned the Facebook India head about the recent WSJ article. Replying to queries, Mohan had suggested to the panel members that the Facebook fact team consultant has so far not found any such element in the content posted by the Bajrang Dal that is violative of its social media policies.
This had also promoted a follow-up question from BJP MP Nishikant Dubey as to why the company had not denied the WSJ report. If the Bajrang Dal content was not found to be violative of its social media policies, he asked, why did the Facebook not term the WSJ report as fake.
This is not Facebook India's first brush with controversy this year. Another WSJ article, earlier this year had claimed that 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 had been Facebook’s top public policy executive in India at the time, was 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.
While Facebook denied the allegations, the politician found himself banned soon after, and Das stepped down from her post in late October.