Group of ex-civil servants ask Zuckerberg to audit Facebook’s hate speech policy : The Tribune India

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Group of ex-civil servants ask Zuckerberg to audit Facebook’s hate speech policy

'Don’t permit commercial considerations to demonise minorities, undermine the secular fabric of India'

Group of ex-civil servants ask Zuckerberg to audit Facebook’s hate speech policy

A Constitutional Conduct Group of former civil servants on Monday wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.



Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 24

A Constitutional Conduct Group of former civil servants on Monday wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking him to make serious efforts to audit the implementation of the social media platform’s hate speech policy in India and not undermine the secular and democratic basis of the Indian Constitution by demonising minorities.

In an official release, the group, having 54 members including IAS (Retired) Salahuddin Ahmad, IPS (Retired) Shafi Alam and IPS (Retired) K Saleem Ali, said, “We have written to him in the expectation that he will make serious efforts to audit the implementation of Facebook’s hate speech policy in India and not permit business considerations to demonise minorities and undermine the secular and democratic basis of the Indian Constitution.”

Noting that as a group the members have no political affiliation and believe in being committed to the Indian Constitution, in the letter they said, “We are writing to you now…, because certain actions (or the absence of certain actions) by Facebook in their operations in India have thrown into danger some of the fundamental rights of the people of India.”

In the letter, the group said that Zuckerberg, being a US citizen, would understand and appreciate the adverse impact of hate speech on democratic and fundamental rights of people and that is why Facebook has made it part of its policy not to allow content, which attacks people on the basis of “race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity and serious disabilities or diseases.”.

“Given this clear definition in your own policy, we are surprised that Facebook did not take action against some clear and serial offenders in India - persons like T Raja Singh and a few others – for their derogatory comments against people belonging to a different religion, accusing Muslims of spreading COVID 19, indulging in ‘love jihad’ and various other misdemeanours. What is striking about Facebook’s leniency towards these persons is that all of them happen to be members of the political party in power,” the letter read.

The group said, their attention was drawn to this by an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) dated August 14, 2020, and most democratic countries assure their citizens of several basic rights and freedoms.

“We are dismayed to learn, again from the WSJ article, that the Public Policy Head of Facebook India consciously opposed applying Facebook’s hate speech rules to members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) because doing so would adversely affect the company’s business prospects in India,” the letter read.

Further reminding the Facebook CEO that he could not be unaware that religious unrest has become a serious problem in India, the group highlighted saying: “The recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), coupled with the proposed National Registry of Citizens (NRC), threatens to take away the citizenship of hundreds of thousands of Muslims and other minorities in India and put them in detention centres”.

The group said, “You cannot also be ignorant of the communal riots that took place in Delhi in February 2020, in which 53 persons were killed, two-thirds of them Muslims. Several cases of lynching and torture, primarily of Muslims and Dalits (oppressed castes and groups), have also occurred in India in recent years. The majority of these are related to ‘cow vigilantism’, i.e. religious extremists resorting to violence in apparent efforts to protect cows from being illegally slaughtered.” Many of these crimes have been instigated through hate speech spread through various communication channels, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, they added.


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