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Facebook suppressing report on hate speech probe in India: WSJ

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New Delhi, Nov 12 (IANS) Facebook (now called Meta) is stifling an independent report it commissioned to probe hate speech on its platforms in India, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday citing human rights groups.

The human rights team at Facebook, which is facing intense scrutiny worldwide, including in India, has reportedly “narrowed the draft report’s scope and are delaying a process that has already taken more than a year, the groups say”.

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According to independent human rights groups, they have provided extensive input to a US law firm that Facebook commissioned in mid-2020 to undertake the report.

“The groups say they supplied hundreds of examples of inflammatory content and suggested ways Facebook could better police its services in India,” the report mentioned.

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“They are trying to kill it,” said Ratik Asokan of India Civil Watch International.

Facebook has faced criticism from rights groups for failing to sanitise its platform in India.

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The social network has more than 300 users, along with over 400 million on WhatsApp in India.

According to a Facebook spokesperson, with a complex project like this, the goal is to be thorough, not to meet an arbitrary deadline.

“We look forward to our independent assessor, Foley Hoag, completing their India assessment,” the spokesperson told the WSJ.

The WSJ reported last month that Facebook researchers have found that its products in India are full of “inflammatory content that one report linked to deadly religious riots, according to internal documents”.

After whistleblower Frances Haugen accused Facebook of not taking action on fear-mongering and hate content related to India because of “the lack of Hindi and Bengali classifiers,” experts have said Facebook has no mechanism to deal with hate content in local or regional languages.

Arvind Gupta, social media expert and head of Digital India Foundation, told IANS, “Whether Facebook accepts it or not, it is a fact that it has no mechanism to deal with content in regional languages and that is why this kind of problem keeps arising.”

In the past, Facebook has faced several allegations of inaction against hate content in India.

In January this year, a Parliament Standing Committee on Information Technology (I&T) had issued summons to officials of Facebook and Twitter to question them over misuse of the social media or online news platforms. The committee has also questioned Facebook’s India head Ajit Mohan over the issue of political bias on the social media platform.

The allegations of a Facebook bias towards the BJP were reported in The Wall Street Journal in August 2020 and had claimed that Ankhi Das, the platform’s then India Policy Head had opposed the idea of removing hate posts by BJP leaders, warning that this could hamper their “commercial interests”.

Das later quit Facebook.

–IANS

na/pgh

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