Facebook is selective in tackling hate speech against Indian Muslims: study – Journal

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NEW DELHI: Facebook in India has been selective in tackling hate speech, disinformation and inflammatory posts, especially anti-Muslim content, according to leaked documents, even as the internet giant’s own employees questioned his motives and interests.

Based on research produced as late as March of this year on corporate memos dating back to 2019, internal corporate documents on India highlight Facebook’s ongoing struggles to quash abusive content on its platforms in the world’s largest democracy and the company’s largest growth market. Community and religious tensions in India have a habit of spilling over into social media and fueling violence.

The files show that Facebook has been aware of the issues for years, raising questions about whether it has done enough to fix the issues. Many critics and digital experts claim he has failed to do so, especially in cases where members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party are involved.

Media giant’s internal documents show the company has been aware of the issues for years

All over the world, Facebook has become more and more important in politics, and India is no different. Modi has been credited with leveraging the platform to his party’s advantage during the election, and Wall Street Journal reports last year questioned whether Facebook was selectively enforcing its policies on speeches. of hatred to avoid the backlash from the BJP.

Modi and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg breathed good humor, commemorated by a 2015 image of the two kissing at Facebook headquarters.

The leaked documents include a wealth of internal company reports on hate speech and disinformation in India that in some cases appeared to have been heightened by its own recommended features and algorithms. They also include the concerns of company staff members about the mismanagement of these issues and their dissatisfaction with the viral dissatisfaction on the platform.

According to the documents, Facebook considered India to be one of the most at-risk countries in the world and identified the Hindi and Bengali languages ​​as priorities for automating the violation of hostile speech. Yet Facebook didn’t have enough local language moderators or content signage in place to stop the misinformation that has sometimes led to real-world violence.

In a statement, Facebook said it has invested heavily in technology to find hate speech in various languages, including Hindi and Bengali, which has halved the number of hate speech people see in 2021.

“Hate speech against marginalized groups, including Muslims, is on the increase around the world. So we’re improving the app and we’re committed to updating our policies as hate speech evolves online, ”a company spokesperson said.

This report is based on disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in drafted form by legal counsel to former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen. The drafted versions were obtained by a consortium of news agencies.

In February 2019 and ahead of the general election when fears of misinformation were high, a Facebook employee wanted to understand what a new user in India was seeing on their newsfeed if they were only following pages and groups only recommended by the platform itself. .

The employee created a test user account and kept it online for three weeks, during which time an extraordinary event rocked India – an attack in occupied Kashmir killed over 40 Indian soldiers, this which raised tensions with Pakistan.

In the memo, titled “Indian test user descent into a sea of ​​polarizing and nationalistic messages,” the redacted employee said he was shocked at the content flooding the news feed. The person described the content as having become an almost constant barrage of polarizing nationalist content, misinformation, violence and gore.

The seemingly harmless and harmless groups recommended by Facebook quickly evolved into something else, where hate speech, unverified rumors, and viral content were rampant.

Posted in Dawn, October 25, 2021


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