Facebook Hate Speech And The Indian Politics
Author: Shaika Siddique
Designation: Law Student
Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wall Street Journal's Report
It all started with the report published in the Wall Street Journal, which accused Facebook going against its own hate speech policies and favouring the Indian ruling party- BJP. The report further went on to take within it's sweep Ankhi Das who is the Public Policy Head, Facebook in India, South and Central Asia. It is also being alleged that she has influenced Facebook for not taking any action against the hate speech by the ruling party as it will have an havoc impact on Facebook's business in India, because Facebook has the largest number of users from India as Facebook is banned in China.
Banning Of T.Raja Facebook Account
At the core of the Wall Street Journal controversy, Facebook banned the FB account of T.Raja Singh, a BJP leader by tagging as "dangerous individual." Facebook has a policing staff to keep an eye on the contents being promoted by using its platform. They have certain criteria for tagging the account as dangerous individuals which incorporate both online and offline activities. As in the instant case, T.Raja Singh on his account has various hate speeches, be it about shooting the Rohingyas or anti Muslim and others. However offline too T.Raja Singh was quite active in bolstering hate speeches. Considering these his account was pulled down of the platform.
Ruling v. Opposition - The Blame Game
Amid these there has been a slew of statements from both the ruling and the opposition parties playing their favourite pastime - The Blame Game. While the Congress, much predictably, wrote a letter to the Facebook founder, Mark Zukerberg alleging Facebook to be a partisan platform promoting the right wing thoughts and being pro-BJP.
However letter to the CEO, Facebook has also been sent by Union Minister of Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad blaming Facebook for restricting the reach of right wing people to the masses and helping it's opposition instead of being neutral.
Several tweets have also been made by members of both the parties alleging each other of using the platform to the detriment of democracy and promoting false and fake news and trying to contaminate the process of free and fair elections. Whereas the counter attack too has been made while answering the allegation which, in a gist , says that when the Congress have lost their hold on the country it is baselessly claiming the BJP, to be controlling the entire world.
Information and Technology Parliamentary Panel Headed by Shashi Tharoor
Ajit Mohan, India Facebook head, was summoned for answering the various allegations put forth by both the parties on 2nd September,2020. Ajit Mohan was bombarded with questions from both sides as Congress alleged Facebook for extending biased support to BJP as it can spend more. Whereas the ruling party blamed Facebook for having connections with Congress.
Nevertheless, Ajit Mohan, advocated that Facebook is neutral and unbiased, not affiliated to any political thoughts.
The Parliamentary Committee has called the India Facebook representative to hear their views on safeguarding the citizens rights and their safety.
Replying to the various allegations, Ajit Mohan stated that Facebook has globally removed 22.5 million hate speeches post, and also mentioned that Facebook refers to global standards as far as the issue of hate speech is concerned and could not adhere to any country specific guidelines.
Does Facebook Ensue Any Liability Pursuant To The Hate Speech
Facebook - A New Battle Field And The Hate Speeches Are a Weapon
Globally Facebook has become the new battlefield with all the so called, self claimed upholders and protectors of our religion , caste etc, we'll equipped with their weapons in form of hate speech to defend their views. Hate Speech on facebook and other social media platforms have become the fashion of the day. The situation is such that none of us could, while scrolling the wall feed, contend of not encountering even a single post relating to hate speech. The damage caused by it is irreparable and massive.
India's Current Crisis of Religious Tensions
India is a land of diversity, people of myriad faiths, culture, tradition, ethnicity etc inhabits the country. However the recent crisis which the country is facing in the form of religious tension and zero tolerance in aspect of diversity is a matter of deep concern. Nevertheless this situation is further exacerbated by the free circulation of hate speeches on social media platforms.
Amid the anti CAA protests, the Delhi riots and others these hate speeches have just added fuel to the fire this worsening the conditions.
G.A.F.A.M. is the popularly used acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, these big gigs by and large control and regulate the global economy. India, in terms of number, has the maximum facebook users. The simple logic is when a company is making giant profits, does it not have any responsibility? However Facebook has often shrugged off its responsibility by sating that it is not the publishers of the content rather it only provides for the platform for their contents. Undoubtedly facebook is a platform but is it no understood that whatever moves on its platform bears it's consent and approval. It's high time that in India Facebook should be held responsible for the damage that its content has done.
Facebook has taken plea of global standards to look into the matter of hate speeches and stated that it cannot follow country specific guidelines. However there is a rebuttal for their pleas the condition of all countries cannot be same, the sensitivity of the matter differs. So applying the same universal standards is not the panacea of all illness.
Secondly where the company which is one the big names across the world, shouldn't it's liability be proportional to its profit making. Facebook has a team of content reviewer, who review the content and erase them if found against the guidelines of Facebook.
Judicial Assistance In The Matter
Asking for judiciary to interfere in the matter would be futile as we all know the short span of time within which the hate speech serves it's purpose. Efforts to judicially attend these hate speech anyhow will consume some hours and that time interval will be sufficient for the hate speech to do the desired damage.
Moreover putting the burden of this online monster on the judiciary will be like adding additional weights to an already overburdened institution leading to its inefficiency.
Hate Speech v. Freedom of Speech And Expression
Restriction on the peoples right to expression and speech in any form and kind will attract great protest all around the nation. However where there is a right, there is a restriction. Article 19(2) provides for the grounds on which restrictions can be imposed on the freedom of speech and expression in the interest of public order, security of the state , incitement of an offence are few among other grounds.
The Collaboration Between The Government And Facebook To Fight Against The Menace Of Hate Speech
The government has to come forward to protect the citizen from the wrath of hate speech. The government should issue certain topics on which commenting on social media or Facebook will attract criminal liabilities and be punishable. However people interested to comment on the same can do so by publishing it through any editorial or other medium which does not result in an instant publication without a robust review mechanism.
In this even the judiciary could play a role by setting precedent by punishing those violating the government instructions on publication on social media.
Even the Facebook has make its team of content reviewer more active and aware about the huge hate speech content generated by its users every now and then.