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‘We take allegations of bias seriously’: Facebook responds to Congress’ letter over hate speech

‘First and foremost, we want to take this opportunity to state that we are non-partisan and strive to ensure that our platforms remain a space where people can express themselves freely,’ it said.

SNS | New Delhi |

Days after Congress levelled allegations against Facebook of being biased towards the BJP for not scanning hate speeches posted by its leader, the social media giant responded by saying, “We take seriously the concerns and recommendations raised by the Indian National Congress.”

This is in response to the two letters sent by the Congress party to Facebook accusing its India leadership of bias and showing favouritism to the BJP.

In a letter addressed to KC Venugopal, Neil Potts, Facebook’s director of Public Policy said, “At the outset, we thank you for your letter dated August 18, 2020. We take seriously the concerns and recommendations you raised on behalf of the Indian National Congress.”

“As a Public Policy Director at Facebook, I oversee Facebook’s Trust and Safety Policy Team — a team of subject matter experts that provides advice and counsel to the company on various issues, including Counterterrorism, Cybersecurity, Civic Integrity, Safety, and Human Rights. First and foremost, we want to take this opportunity to state that we are non-partisan and strive to ensure that our platforms remain a space where people can express themselves freely. We take allegations of bias seriously and want to make clear that we denounce hate and bigotry in all forms,” the letter said.

“In the last interaction with you and other esteemed members of your party, we described our Community Standards—our policies on what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook—and shared the steps we have taken on our platforms in the wake of COVID-19. On the question of hateful content by public figures, we want to assure you that our Community Standards prohibit attacks against people based on their protected characteristics, including religion, caste, ethnicity, and national origin. In line with our hate speech policy, we have removed and will continue to remove hateful content by public figures in India on our platforms,” the letter added.

“As part of our policy development process, we consult a community of external voices, including civil society organizations, academics, and subject experts. We also rely extensively on inputs from a broad cross-section of internal teams who understand both local and global contexts in the enforcement of our policies on hate speech and dangerous organizations and individuals. We have a team with deep expertise on terrorism and organized hate, who pay attention to global and regional trends and advise on these matters. These decisions are not made unilaterally by any one person; rather, they are inclusive of different views from teams around the company, a process that is critical to making sure we consider, understand, and account for both the local and global contexts. We’ve published Transparency Reports to be open and proactive in explaining how we action harmful content on our platforms. The latest Transparency Report includes Community Standards enforcement data on how we take action against violating content across our platforms,” it said.

“We removed 22.5 million pieces of hate speech content from April-June in 2020, up from 1.6 million pieces of hate speech content removed in the last quarter of 2017. We know there is much more to do and will continue to invest our efforts to combat hate speech on our services. Public Policy is a diverse team representing a varied political spectrum, who have either served in many administrations or have political experience and take immense pride in being active contributors to public service—this is the case not only in India but also globally. Together, we have a non-partisan approach in dealing with content and have designed systems to ensure we are enforcing policies globally without regard for anyone’s past political positions, party affiliation, or beliefs,” he said in the letter.

“To reiterate, we are committed to maintaining the highest levels of integrity in the way we operate and in fostering an environment of free and safe expression on our platforms. We are thankful for the recommendations and would appreciate the opportunity to engage with you and the party on these matters,” it added.

Earlier in the day, Facebook had banned BJP leader T Raja Singh. The politician was banned for violating Facebook’s policy on content promoting hate and violence, said a spokesperson.

READ: Facebook bans BJP leader T Raja Singh for violating policy on content promoting hate, violence

Last week, Congress had written a letter to the Facebook saying, “We urge you to let us know what steps your company is planning to take to investigate these matters… will also be pursuing legislative and judicial actions in India to ensure a foreign company cannot continue to cause social disharmony in our nation for pursuit of private profits.”

Prior to that, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal, in a separate letter, had alleged a “quid-pro-quo relationship” between Facebook India and the ruling BJP.

READ: Congress writes another letter to Mark Zuckerberg over reports alleging ‘Facebook-BJP nexus’