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Post about ‘genocide threat’ against Sikhs reaches Facebook Oversight Board

Facebook removed the November 2020 post, viewed fewer than 500 times, after a single report, but restored it after the user submitted their appeal to the board.

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New Delhi: A November 2020 post that alleged the RSS and PM Narendra Modi are “threatening the Sikhs with genocide” is among the latest cases taken up by the Facebook Oversight Board, the social media giant’s content regulator.

The board announced it is looking into the case on 9 February.

Facebook had removed the post, viewed fewer than 500 times, after a single report, finding it violative of its community standards on Dangerous Individuals and Organizations. However, Facebook restored it after the user submitted their appeal to the board, identifying the removal as an “enforcement error”, the board stated on its website.

The post in question features a video — a 17-minute interview with an expert identified as Professor Manjit Singh — from a Punjabi media portal called Global Punjab TV. 

The case description offered by the board states that the caption posted by the portal read: “RSS is the new threat. Ram Naam Satya Hai. The BJP moved towards extremism [RSS ਦੀ ਨਵੀਂ ਧਮਕੀ, ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਸੱਤ ਹੈ! ਕੱਟੜਤਾ ਵੱਲ ਹੋਰ ਵਧੀ ਬੀਜੇਪੀ]”.

Sharing this post, the user added text that said the Sikhs in India should be on high alert and Sikh regiments in the army have warned Prime Minister Modi of their willingness to die to protect the Sikh farmers and their land in Punjab, according to the case description.

The user said the CIA designated the RSS a “fanatic Hindu terrorist organization” and “PM Modi was once its president” [Both these facts are inaccurate]. 

They further stated that the RSS is “threatening to kill Sikhs” and repeat the “deadly saga” of 1984, when Hindu mobs massacred members of the community after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.

PM Modi, the user added, is formulating the threat of “Genocide of the Sikhs” on advice of RSS president Mohan Bhagwat. 

The Facebook post has been taken up by the board just days after the government directed Twitter to block certain accounts that purportedly used the hashtag “Modi Planning Farmer Genocide”.

Twitter had complied, but removed the block after a few hours citing “‘insufficient justification”.

Last week, the government also reportedly asked Twitter to block 1,178 accounts suspected to be linked to Khalistan sympathisers or backed by Pakistan.

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

What user said in appeal

According to the oversight board, the Facebook user questioned in their appeal “why the video still remained on Facebook if there was an issue with the content”. The user also complained about Facebook “restricting their ability to post”.

The comment “simply repeated the video’s substance and reflected its tone”, the user added. The post, the user said, is “not threatening or criminal”.

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.”

The board has announced that, in the coming days, it will also declare its verdict on another India-linked case stemming from a “veiled threat” to French President Emmanuel Macron.

Also Read: Facebook oversight board overturns four out of five decisions in first ruling


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