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Former civil servants ask Facebook to audit hate speech policy without Ankhi Das’ ‘influence’

The group, including retired IAS officers Harsh Mander and Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan, pull up Facebook for not censoring hate speech in India over business interests.

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New Delhi: A group of 54 retired civil servants have written to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg Monday demanding an audit of the social media platform’s hate speech policy in India.

The group also asked Facebook to ensure that while such an audit is underway, its Public Policy Head for India, Ankhi Das, should not be “in a position to influence the investigations”.

The signatories of the letter, under the collective Constitutional Conduct Group, include retired IAS officer Harsh Mander, retired IPS officer Shafi Alam, retired IAS officer Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan and retired IAS officer Salahuddin Ahmad, among others.

The group said their attention to Facebook’s hate speech policy was drawn by the article in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), dated 14 August, which accused Facebook India of turning a blind eye to hate speech by a BJP leader and three other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups” in order to avoid damaging their business prospects in India.

The letter noted, “Facebook has failed to implement its own policy of discouraging hate speech in India, or has implemented it in a clearly partisan manner. That this seems to have been done to protect Facebook’s commercial interests is even more reprehensible.”

The retired civil servants were also “dismayed” to learn that Das had “consciously opposed applying hate speech rules” to BJP members.

The letter stated that while Facebook defines “hate speech as a direct attack on people”, it failed to take action against “clear and serial offenders in India – persons like T. Raja Singh and a few others”.

It also said that the platform has been lenient towards “members of the political party in power” who had passed “derogatory comments” against people belonging to a different religion, accused Muslims of spreading Covid-19 and indulging in “love jihad”.

“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 went on to read, “That Facebook did consider the posts to be offensive is apparent from the fact that these posts were deleted on 17 August, after the WSJ wrote to Facebook seeking its comments.”

Also read: No rallies or roadshows, Bihar digital election is on WhatsApp, Facebook — BJP’s home turf

‘Hate speech, posts leading to crimes’

The retired civil servants also reminded Zuckerberg that he couldn’t be unaware how “religious unrest” has become a serious problem in India. Their letter stated how the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), coupled with the National Register of Citizens, “threaten” to take away citizenship of Muslims in the country.

The former civil servants also pointed out during the Northeast Delhi riots in February, 53 people were killed of which “two thirds” of them were Muslims.

The group also said many instances where Muslims and Dalits were lynched and tortured by vigilante groups were “instigated” by hate speech that was spread through via Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter.

“We also fervently hope that in future, you will not let your company’s business prospects stand in the way of implementing your own policy against hate speech and posts which can lead to hate crimes.

“This is a sure way of demonising minorities and inflicting violence upon them while undermining the democratic and secular basis of the Indian Constitution,” the letter read.

Also read: She’s incapable of doing anything unethical, says Ankhi Das’ father-in-law, a Trinamool MLA


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  1. Harsh Mander is known rabble rouser.
    What is hate speech? Well, whatever Mander describe as hate speech, is a hate speech.
    If he says, that it is sweet speech, everybody should honor that certificate.

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