Facebook grilled by Delhi panel on “hate speech in the Indian context”

AAP leader Raghav Chadha questioned Shivnath Thukral, Public Policy Director, Facebook India.

New Delhi:

Facebook India officials were today grilled over hate posts by a Delhi panel in connection with the February 2020 riots in the capital. The social networking giant was asked to share details of the religious affiliation of its public policy team and board of directors.

In a livestreamed session, the company, now known by the corporate name “Meta”, faced tough questions on the religious affiliation of its employees in India and the company’s policy on hate posts.

“What is the religious affiliation of people working in Facebook India,” questioned Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Raghav Chadha, who heads the Delhi Assembly Committee on Peace and Harmony.

Shivnath Thukral, Public Policy Director, Facebook India, replied that the company has 300 employees in the country, with about 20 employees in the policy team.

Thukral told the panel, “We do not keep records about the religious minority workforce as the law of the land does not permit it.”

Mr Chadha then asked Facebook to provide details on the composition of the public policy team and board of directors based on religion and shareholding patterns at the next hearing.

On hate posts, Delhi panel asks Facebook to submit all user complaints received for one month before riots and details of action taken for two months after the riots. “Hate hurts us. We don’t want hate on our platform. Our advertisers don’t want either. We’re working on that,” Facebook said.

To this, the AAP leader replied: “I’m not sure hate hurts you because you are a business and the virality of hate posts brings you revenue.”

Did Facebook define hate speech in the Indian context, the committee asked.

Without giving any specific answer to the question, Mr. Thukral said, “We have to strike a balance between freedom of expression and security. Based on the inputs, we have included caste in the hate speech in the Indian context.”

To a specific question whether India had a hate speech policy, the officials exercised the right of no answer.

Mr Thukral talked about users taking to Facebook to flag oxygen requirements during the peak of Covid.

“This year alone, five billion dollars were invested for safety and security. We are aware and take this issue seriously. I don’t sleep peacefully with hate,” he said.

Facebook was also asked how quickly it responded to complaints about the post.

“An acknowledgment is given on complaints within 24 hours and if this content violates the policy, it is removed immediately,” Mr Thukral said.

During the Delhi riots, asked to give information about the deleted posts for violating the policy. Facebook officials refused to share details, citing a Supreme Court order calling it a matter of law and order.

When asked whether the platform registers any complaint with law enforcement agencies for infringing content, Mr. Thukral replied, “We remove infringing content and are not a law enforcement agency. We do not file any complaint with any agency.” don’t.”

The committee questioned whether the forum took measures to remove problematic material during the Delhi riots.

Facebook responded that it had a “bucket of remedies” as part of its policy against hate speech that was a “continuous process” and did not stop. Explaining how such content was removed, Mr Thukral said that the sharing of content was based on an algorithm that reduced the vitality and engagement of the content.

Dissatisfied with Facebook’s response, Mr Chadha said, “By stoning questions, you are frustrating the proceedings.”

The panel had summoned Facebook India to clarify its position on the role of social media in preventing the spread of false and provocative messages affecting peace.

Over 50 people were killed and 200 injured in the three-day violence in Delhi against the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act).

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