New Delhi: A November 2020 post on Facebook alleging that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is a “new threat” and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has “moved towards extremism” has been deemed as not in violation of the social media platform’s policy, and noted that its removal was “not consistent with the company’s Community Standards or its human rights responsibilities”.
Facebook’s Oversight Board was reviewing the platform’s decision to remove the post after the user who posted the content appealed to it. The post in question featured a video — a 17-minute interview with an expert identified as Professor Manjit Singh — from a Punjabi media portal called Global Punjab TV.
The post had also claimed that the “RSS was threatening to kill Sikhs” and that “Prime Minister Modi himself is formulating the threat of ‘Genocide of the Sikhs’ on advice of the RSS President Mohan Bhagwat”.
The oversight board announced its decision Wednesday, about two months after it said it would be reviewing the post identified by code number 2021-003-FB-UA.
The Facebook Oversight Board, set up by the company last year, acts as an independent body and aims at helping Facebook “answer some of the most difficult questions around freedom of expression online: what to take down, what to leave up and why.”
‘Deadly saga’ of 1984
The original video, which was later shared on Facebook last year, was a Global Punjab TV interview with Professor Manjit Singh, “a social activist and supporter of the Punjabi culture”, according to board’s announcement.
The Facebook user who shared the video had further added a caption, claiming the “RSS was threatening to kill Sikhs”, according to the oversight board’s description of the post. The user had also claimed RSS wanted a repeat of the “deadly saga” of 1984, when Hindu mobs massacred members of the Sikh community after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.
The user also added text that said the Sikhs in India should be on high alert and Sikh regiments in the Army have warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi of their willingness to die to protect the Sikh farmers and their land in Punjab, according to the case description.
Another user had reported the post to Facebook, and a “human reviewer” had decided it violated Facebook’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations Community Standard leading to the post being taken down.
This in turn had automatically restricted the account of the user who shared the video.
At one point, Facebook had told the user that it could not review their appeal of the removal because of a temporary reduction in review capacity due to Covid-19, the board also noted.
Why Facebook’s decision was overturned
After the board had decided to review the case, Facebook restored the content because the original removal was an “error”, the board said.
“Facebook noted that none of the groups or individuals mentioned in the content are designated as ‘dangerous’ under its rules. The company also could not identify the specific words in the post which led to it being removed in error,” said the board as it explained why it overturned the original decision.
While recommending to Facebook to provide its Community Standards in Punjabi, the board added: “The Board noted that the post highlighted the concerns of minority and opposition voices in India that are allegedly being discriminated against by the government. It is particularly important that Facebook takes steps to avoid mistakes which silence such voices.”
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)