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‘India-linked’ threat to Macron among first 6 cases taken up by Facebook content watchdog

According to the Facebook Oversight Board, the case is about a post on a group that ‘appears to exist for Muslims in India’.

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New Delhi: Facebook’s content watchdog has taken up its first case with a possible Indian link — a post that was seen as a “veiled threat” to French President Emmanuel Macron, who came under fire from Muslims after he talked about a “crisis” in Islam following the beheading of a teacher for showing his students controversial cartoon depictions of the Prophet.

Muslims consider any depictions of the Prophet as blasphemy, and the cartoons in question — made by Charlie Hebdo — had also led to a terror attack on the French magazine’s office in 2015 that killed 12 people.

Cases taken up by Facebook’s Oversight Board, which comprises outside experts and civil leaders, are assigned special identification codes. The ‘India-related’ case is ‘2020-007-FB-FBR’, and it’s one of the first six cases taken up by the watchdog.

According to the board, the case is about a post on a Facebook group that “appears to exist for Muslims in India”. The post, referred to the board by Facebook, contained a statement in Hindi about a “sword being taken from its scabbard if people speak against the Prophet”. Facebook, which took down the post, adds that it referred to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron.

The post, the board states, contained a photo showing “a man in leather armor holding a sheathed sword in his right hand”.  It also had a “logo with the words ‘Indian Muslims’ in English”.

In addition, the post featured text in English, including hashtags terming the French President “the devil”, and “calling for the boycott of French products”.

When Facebook referred the case to the board, it stated that the case is “significant” since the content could pose a “‘veiled threat’” with a specific reference to an individual, President Macron”.

Facebook also noted that there were “heightened tensions in France” when the post was published to the group.

ThePrint has sent emails to the Facebook communications team and the board to ask if the post is by an India-based user. But there was no response until the time of publishing this report.

Also Read: Grilled by IT parliamentary panel on hate speech, Facebook India head says company is neutral

Monitoring content

Facebook set up the Oversight Board as an independent body that will help the social media giant, which also owns Instagram, to “answer some of the most difficult questions around freedom of expression online: what to take down, what to leave up and why.”

Facebook says it referred the India-related case to the Oversight Board “as an example of a challenging decision about statements that may incite violence even when not explicit. It also highlights an important tension we face when addressing religious speech that could be interpreted as a threat of violence”.

The India-related case replaces another case that was taken up by the board but has since been taken down and will thus not be reviewed. It pertained to some controversial tweets posted by former Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the context of the beheading in France. The user had posted screenshots of the two tweets without caption. 

The board was set up this May amid increasing pressure on social media giants, especially Facebook, to crack down against hate speech propagated on the platforms. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook turned a blind eye to hate speech by a BJP leader and three other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups” to avoid damaging the social media platform’s business prospects in its biggest market”.

Also Read: Facebook turned blind eye to BJP leader’s hate speech to protect its business, says WSJ report


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  1. Our self-righteousness so limits our sense of justice that what we practice with great pomp and show, seems hateful to us if others desire it.

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