Facebook bans politician from India’s BJP for hate speech

Raja Singh banned from Facebook and Instagram for anti-Muslim posts, after the social media giant accused of bias.

Ajit Mohan, Managing Director of Facebook India, comes out of the Parliament Annexe after his meeting with the parliamentary panel, in New Delhi, India, September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Ajit Mohan, managing director of Facebook India, leaves Parliament after his deposition before a parliamentary panel on Wednesday [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

Facebook has banned a member of India’s governing Hindu nationalist party for violating its policies covering violence and hate speech, after the social media giant was accused of political bias.

The company said on Thursday it had banned politician Raja Singh from Facebook and Instagram under its “dangerous individuals and organizations” policy.

The world’s largest social media company is under fire after The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that its India policy chief Ankhi Das refused to apply the company’s hate speech policies to politicians from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups”.

Facebook ignored its hate speech policy and allowed anti-Muslim posts on its platform to avoid ruining the company’s relationship with India’s governing party, said the report by The Wall Street Journal.

Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director, Facebook India and South & Central Asia, during an interview at her office on March 3, 2014 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty Images)
Ankhi Das refused to apply the company’s hate speech policies to BJP politicians, the WSJ said in a report [File: Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty Images]

Singh, the BJP’s only legislator in the southern state of Telangana, is known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric. The WSJ said the right-wing politician had demanded that Rohingya refugees be shot, called India’s Muslims traitors and threatened to demolish mosques in his Facebook posts and public speeches.

On Wednesday, an Indian parliamentary committee grilled Ajit Mohan, managing director of Facebook India, after the social media giant was accused of not acting against anti-Muslim posts on its platforms.

Public-relations crisis

When contacted for comment, Singh sent Reuters a video message saying his followers and other party workers had set up pages using his name and that he plans to contact Facebook so that he can open an account.

“I want to use social media following all norms,” he said.

Some Facebook employees have raised questions about whether adequate procedures and content regulation practices were being followed by the India team, sources familiar with discussions told Reuters last month.

On Thursday Facebook said it will also remove pages, groups and accounts set up to represent Singh and Facebook events that he is known to be participating in, but will continue to allow wider discussion of him, including praise and support.

“The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove his account,” the company said in a statement

The Wall Street Journal reported the move earlier, saying at least five Facebook profiles dedicated to Singh, which once had more than 300,000 followers, showed a message saying “This Content Isn’t Available Right Now”.

Source: News Agencies