Congress tells FB: Want concrete action

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 03, 2020 Published on September 03, 2020

It was responding to FB’s assurance of being ‘non partisan’ and addressing its concerns

Facebook has assured the Congress that it will take the concerns and recommendations raised by the Opposition party seriously. It is a non-partisan organisation that strives to ensure that people can express themselves freely on its platforms, said the social media platform’s Public Policy, Trust and Safety Director Neil Potts in a letter to the Congress general secretary in-charge of organisation KC Venugopal.

In his reply to Venugopal’s letters demanding strict action against certain executives of Facebook India team for colluding with the BJP, Potts said they take allegations of bias seriously and want to make clear that they will “denounce hate and bigotry” in all forms. Potts assured Venugopal that Facebook’s community standards prohibit attacks against people based on their protected characteristics, including religion, caste, ethnicity, and national origin.

Global expertise

“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. As part of our policy development process, we consult a community of external voices, including civil society organisations, 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 organisations and individuals. We have a team with deep expertise on terrorism and organised hate, who pay attention to global and regional trends and advise on these matters,” Potts said.

“We removed 22.5 million pieces of hate speech content from April-June in 2020, up from 1.6 million pieces 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,” he said.

He maintained that Facebook has a non-partisan approach in dealing with content and has designed systems to ensure that they are enforcing policies globally without regard for anyone’s past political positions, party affiliation, or beliefs.

Awaiting ‘concrete action’

Responding to the letter, Congress’s Data Analysis Department head Praveen Chakravarty said his party had raised alarm over interference in India’s internal affairs by a foreign company. “This is not a political issue. This is about India’s democracy and use of digital weapons to disrupt India’s social order by a foreign company, at the behest of certain individuals in their leadership team,” he said.

He said Facebook has thanked the Congress for raising this concern and acknowledged its seriousness while not refuting any of the charges made against individuals of the Facebook India leadership team in the media articles. “The Indian National Congress notes the response from Facebook Inc and their wish to be non-partisan and non-interfering in India’s affairs,” and added that the party awaits further concrete action from the global leadership of Facebook and demonstration of specific corrective measures being undertaken in Facebook and WhatsApp India. “It must be reiterated that the media revelations on this issue were based on solid documentary evidence of internal communication and are hence incontrovertible,” he said.

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Published on September 03, 2020
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