Facebook ignored another hate post by BJP leader; it remained for more than a year, reveals Time magazine

Social media giant Facebook has allowed a hate post by a BJP MLA in Assam to remain on its pages for over a year. This was despite an alert from an NGO Avaaz in 2019, the Time magazine has reported

Facebook ignored another hate post by BJP leader; it remained for more than a year, reveals Time magazine
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NH Web Desk

Social media giant Facebook has allowed a hate post by a BJP MLA in Assam to remain on its pages for over an year. This was despite an alert from an NGO Avaaz in 2019, the Time magazine has reported.

The New York based magazine has reported that despite complaints from Avaaz in the year 2019, social media site had even after a year failed to remove a post by BJP’s Assam MLA Shiladitya Dev. The post had blamed Bangladeshi Muslims for rapes.

The officials from Avaaz were apparently called for a meeting with the Facebook officials but “But halfway through the hour-long meeting (with Avaaz in July last year), Shivnath Thukral, the most senior Facebook official on the call, got up and walked out of the room, Zoyab (a former Avaaz official) says, saying he had other important things to do,” the report by The Time states

“Among the posts was one by Shiladitya Dev, a lawmaker in the state of Assam for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

“He had shared a news report about a girl being allegedly drugged and raped by a Muslim man, and added his own comment: ‘This is how Bangladeshi Muslims target our [native people] in 2019,” the report read.

“But rather than removing it, Facebook allowed the post to remain online for more than a year after the meeting until Time contacted Facebook to ask about it on Aug. 21.”

According to a report in The Telegraph, like Ankhi Das, another senior official of Facebook India who has been linked to the BJP, Shivnath Thukral, a former journalist too formerly ran an Internet campaign linked to the BJP.

“Before joining Facebook, Thukral had worked in the past on behalf of the BJP. Despite this, he was involved in making decisions about how to deal with politicians’ posts that moderators flagged as violations of hate speech rules during the 2019 elections, the former employees tell Time,” the Time report says.

“In 2013, during the BJP’s eventually successful campaign to win national power at the 2014 elections, Thukral worked with senior party officials to help run a pro-BJP website and Facebook page. The site, called Mera Bharosa (‘My Trust’ in Hindi) also hosted events, including a project aimed at getting students to sign up to vote, according to interviews with people involved and documents seen by Time.”

However, the website changed its name to “Modi Bharosa” in 2014.

According to Telegraph, mails and messages were sent to both Dev and Thukral, phone calls were also made but they did not receive any response. However, a Facebook spokesperson asked for time to respond to the queries on Friday but had not got back in time.

“We failed to remove (Dev’s post) upon initial review, which was a mistake on our part…. Our understanding is that Shivnath’s volunteering (at Mera Bharosa) at the time focused on the themes of governance within India and are not related to the content questions you have raised, said a Facebook spokesperson as reported by Time.

Thukral is currently public policy director with WhatsApp,.

“But WhatsApp’s future as a payments application in India depends on final approval from the national payments regulator, which is still pending,” reported Times

“Facebook’s hopes for expansion in India have been quashed by a national regulator before, in 2016, when the country’s telecoms watchdog said Free Basics, Facebook’s plan to provide free Internet access for only some sites, including its own, violated Net neutrality rules. One of Thukral’s priorities in his new role is ensuring that a similar problem doesn’t strike down Facebook’s big ambitions for WhatsApp Pay.”

Numerous police complaints were filed against Dev in August after he called late Assamese author Syed Abdul Malik an “intellectual jihadi”.

The report Titled “Megaphone for Hate” by Avaaz in the year 2019 had pointed out several hate posts by Dev on Facebook, including two of his interviews to TV channels in which he blamed Bangladeshi Muslims for rape and other crimes.

“Despite repeated calls from Avaaz to Facebook to proactively enforce with human content moderators its Community Standards on hate speech in Assamese, Bengali and Hindi with a team that understands the issues specific to Assam, Facebook has not yet committed to doing so”, the Avaaz report said.

“The 213 examples that Avaaz flagged as hate speech to Facebook were shared over 99,650 times. Facebook has taken down 96 of the posts, pages and comments we reported to them. These were at least viewed 5.4 million times,” reported Telegraph.

In the report titled “Facebook Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics -- Company executive opposed move to ban controversial politician”, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook looks the other way in cases of hate speech made by BJP leaders.

The WSJ also reported that a top level executive of Facebook’s India operations, Ankhi Das had said punishing violations by BJP workers “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”.

After the report, Facebook had said its policies prohibited hate speech and incitement irrespective of political affiliation. But it did not explain why anti-Muslim posts in the name of the leader of the BJP’s legislature party in Telangana, T. Raja Singh, were allowed.

The Delhi Assembly has since begun an inquiry into whether Facebook had any role in the February communal riots that killed 53 people.

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