It is not in our economic interest to have hate speech on our platform: Facebook India chief

Venkatesh Ganesh/Thomas K Thomas Mumbai | Updated on September 15, 2020

Ajit Mohan, MD and VP, Facebook India

Facing backlash over content moderation on its platform, Ajit Mohan, MD and Vice-President, Facebook India, told BusinessLine that the social-media platform profits from the absence of hate speech.

Mohan, who recently appeared before a Parliamentary panel to discuss the alleged misuse of social-media platforms, said criticism that Facebook’s business model encouraged misinformation, threats and bigotry was far from the truth.

“I have seen the company for 20 months, and I have seen that we gravitate towards choices that’s aimed at the long term even if that means revenue trade-offs in the short term. There is absolute conviction that it is not in our economic interest to have hate speech on our platform. We don’t like it from our values point of view. Governments around the world don’t like it. Advertisers don’t like it. Which ever we look at it, we are clear that we profit from the absence of hate speech,” Mohan told BusinessLine.

How FB came under fire

Facebook has come under fire after media reports alleged that the social-media platform did not pull down posts from a politician belonging to the ruling party despite being flagged as hate speech.

Mohan defended the company saying that in the last quarter of 2017 Facebook had pulled down 1.5 million pieces of hate speech content and, in the second quarter of 2020, pulled out 22 million pieces. “More than 90 per cent of hate speech are picked by automated system even before a user reports it. The stark number tells you the extent of how seriously we are taking this. We have invested in systems and human resources to increase our content enforcement capabilities. We have more than 30,000 people on this job, a massive increase from two years ago,” said Mohan.

Faces scrutiny

But despite these efforts, Facebook is facing scrutiny for failing to apply its own content moderation rules every time. A Wall Street Journal report suggested that Facebook India gave preferential treatment to at least four individuals and groups linked to the BJP, even though they were flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence.


Mohan clarified that the hate speech was taken down. “We probably need to explain more. In the case of the individual, hate speech was taken down multiple times. There is no exception for a politician when it comes to hate speech. At the same time, particular scrutiny was on the designation of the specific individual beyond the hate speech content. The issue was around the designation of the individual. That process took time. It is a deliberate one so that we take inputs from multiple stakeholders in India and globally. The reason for that is that when we take the step of designating an individual, where we limiting his presence on the platform, we are doing it very thoughtfully especially when its an elected official,”he said.

“I would argue that you want us to be extremely cautious and careful. You don’t want us to be trigger happy. But at the same time, we do want to make sure that in a democratic country like India, voters and citizens get to make their own choices,” said Mohan.

Published on September 15, 2020

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