Raising question marks over Facebook’s policies, Wall Street Journal reported that the tech giant turned a blind eye to hate speech by a BJP leader and three other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups” to avoid damaging the company’s business prospects in its biggest market — India.
The newspaper quoted several former and current Facebook employees as saying that the aforementioned accounts, flagged for “promoting or participating in violence”, were spared a ban at the intervention of the company’s top public policy executive in India, Ankhi Das.
The report says that Ms. Das 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.
In a series of provocative posts, T. Raja Singh, the lone BJP MLA in the Telangana assembly has called for shooting of Rohingya Muslim immigrants and threatened to raze mosques.
“Ms. Das, whose job also includes lobbying India’s government on Facebook’s behalf, however had told her staff 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.
“The current and former Facebook employees said Ms. Das’s intervention on behalf of Mr. Singh and many other provocateurs like him is part of a broader pattern of favouritism by Facebook towards Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party,” the report added.
Neither Ms. Das, Mr. Singh, nor the BJP responded to requests for comments from the WSJ, the newspaper said, adding that the Prime Minister’s office spokesperson declined to comment.
The WSJ report comes at a time when global tech giants find themselves under increasing pressure to crack down on the hate speech, which is routinely blamed for triggering actual violence in India.
Facebook’s policy of toeing the government line in India is not new. It has close to 300 million users in India, with its chat platform WhatsApp accounting for 400 million subscribers. The company is also awaiting a government nod to tap India’s burgeoning digital payments market, and looking to establish a wider presence as part of its $5.7 billion partnership with Reliance Jio.
Writing by Minaam Shah.