Friday, June 14, 2024

Facebook enabled violence against Muslims in India, internal documents show

Facebook in India has been selective in curbing hate speech, fake news and inflammatory posts, particularly anti-Muslim content, according to leaked internal documents of social media giant obtained by several news outlets.

Inflammatory content on Facebook spiked 300% above previous levels at times during the months following December 2019, a period in which protests against India’s anti-Muslim and discriminatory citizenship law and subsequent targeted attacks against Muslims by Hindu nationalists swept India.

Rumors and calls to anti-Muslim violence spread particularly on Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service in late February 2020, when an anti-Muslim pogrom in capital city Delhi left 53 dead, according to the report.

The Wall Street Journal reported that users in India say they are subjected to “a large amount of content that encourages conflict, hatred and violence on Facebook and WhatsApp,” such as material blaming Muslims for the spread of coronavirus and assertions that Muslim men are targeting Hindu women for marriage as a “form of Muslim takeover” of the country.

A Hindu man in Delhi told the researchers who prepared the internal document that he received frequent messages on Facebook and WhatsApp suc as “Hindus are in danger, Muslims are about to kill us.”

Another Muslim man living in Mumbai was quoted in the document as saying he feared for his life. “It’s scary, it’s really scary.”

Many critics and digital experts say that the files show that Facebook has been aware of the problems for years, raising questions over whether it has done enough to address these issues.

Many of the users believed it was “Facebook’s responsibility to reduce this content” in their feeds and on WhatsApp, according to the internal documents.

According to the documents, Facebook saw India as of the most “at risk countries” in the world and identified both Hindi and Bengali languages as priorities for “automation on violating hostile speech.”

However, AP reported that the social media giant didn’t have enough local language moderators or content-flagging in place to stop misinformation that at times led to real-world violence.

The researchers also determined that two Hindu nationalist groups with ties to governing BJP post inflammatory anti-Muslim content on the platform.

Though the internal report recommended one of the organizations be kicked off for violating the company’s hate speech rules, the group remains active.

The other group, also remains active on Facebook, and wasn’t designated as dangerous due to “political sensitivities,” promotes incitements to anti-Muslim violence including “dehumanizing posts comparing Muslims to ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs’ and misinformation claiming the Quran calls for men to rape their female family members.”

The documents are part of an extensive array of internal Facebook communications that offer an unparalleled look at how its rules favor elites, its algorithms breed discord, and its services are used to incite violence and target vulnerable people, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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