New Delhi: Facebook has failed to act on hate speech that has targeted Bengali Muslims in Assam ever since the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was launched with earnest in the state, a new report has found.
The report titled, “Megaphone for Hate”, was released by Avaaz, a non-profit global activism group Monday. It found that violent hate speech content on the social media platform such as posts terming Bengali Muslims as “criminals,” “rapists,” “terrorists,” “pigs,” and “dogs” were shared over 1,00,000 times and viewed at least 5.4 M times.
The campaign group said it reviewed over 800 posts and comments regarding Assam and the NRC process, and found that nearly 26.5 per cent or 213 posts and comments breached Facebook’s own community standards policy.
The report alleges that Facebook only removed 96 of these 213 posts, which included threats and calls to “poison” daughters and legalise foeticide.
Alaphia Zoyab, senior campaigner at Avaaz, told ThePrint that Facebook is being used as a “megaphone for hate” against minorities in Assam. Zoyab called out Facebook for its reliance on Artificial Intelligence in detecting hate speech and for lapses in hate speech norms, accusing the site of being complicit in persecuting the “world’s most vulnerable people through its inaction”.
A Facebook spokesperson, however, told ThePrint that the social media giant had investigated all content flagged by Avaaz.
“We have proactively investigated additional content associated with the violations flagged by Avaaz,” the spokesperson said in a written reply. “In India, we specifically have content reviewers who support the majority of official languages in India natively, including Assamese, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Marathi, meaning our teams can review and take action against content reported in these languages.”
Similar to campaign against Rohingyas
Avaaz has argued that even though the context is different, the type of hate speech used against minorities in Assam, is similar to the ones that targeted Rohingya Muslims during the 2017 crisis in Myanmar that displaced over 7,00,000 Rohingyas.
It states that in disturbingly hate-mongering posts, the central theme is about protecting “Indian women from rape obsessed foreigners”.
Among the violators, it has named Shiladitya Dev, the BJP MLA from Hajoi in Assam, who allegedly published a post insinuating that “Bangladeshi Muslims” rape “our mothers and sisters”. The post was shared over 800 times on Facebook but has since been removed.
Despite this, the report accuses Facebook of not ensuring adequate human-led teams for screening of hate speech content.
The report calls on Facebook, the UN and the Indian government to ensure the protection of minorities in the country. It specifically urges the Modi government to work towards regulation of online hate speech through investigation and prosecution.
Avaaz has also called on the central government to ensure that the NRC doesn’t render anyone stateless and rights of those excluded from the list are protected.
So far, 19 lakh people have been excluded from the final NRC list that was released on 31 August.