Facebook bans BJP's T Raja Singh for hate speech amid allegations it favoured saffron party
At least five profiles of Singh, which had more than three lakh followers, showed the message that 'this content is not available right now'
Amid a political slugfest over extremist content on the social media platform, Facebook Inc. banned BJP's Telangana MLA T Raja Singh for violating its policies against hate speech, reported The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
The article further called the removal of the politician an "about-face" for the company as the decision could be "politically tricky in India, its biggest market by the number of users".
New: Facebook has banned a politician from India’s ruling party for violating hate speech rules, amid growing political storm over extremist content. Removal of BJP's T. Raja Singh is about-face for the company and one that will be politically tricky. https://t.co/76cB0HSsHp
— Newley Purnell (@newley) September 3, 2020
A Facebook spokesperson told WSJ, "We have banned Raja Singh from Facebook for violating our policy prohibiting those that promote or engage in violence and hate from having a presence on our platform. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to this decision."
At least five profiles of Singh, which had more than three lakh followers, showed the message that "this content is not available right now".
On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, headed by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, had called representatives of Facebook India to hear their views "on the subject of safeguarding citizens' rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space," according to agenda of the meeting.
Ajit Mohan, Managing Director of Facebook India, appearing before the panel said, "Facebook remains committed to be an open and transparent platform."
The hearing ended without a resolution and Facebook representatives will be summoned again.
Hours before the panel meet, the Trinamool Congress wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg raising the issue of alleged bias of the social media giant towards the BJP.
In a letter to the Facebook head, TMC MP Derek O'Brien claimed that there is enough evidence in public domain to substantiate the charge of Facebook’s bias towards the BJP.
"We, the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), India's second-largest opposition party, have had serious concerns about Facebook's role during the 2014 and 2019 general elections in India," Derek O'Brien wrote in the letter.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also wrote to Zuckerberg on Tuesday, accusing the social media platform's employees of supporting people from a political predisposition that lost successive elections, and "abusing" Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers.
In a three-page letter to the Facebook Chief Executive Officer, Prasad alleged "bias and inaction" by individuals in the Facebook India team on complaints by people supportive of right-of-centre ideology.
The Wall Street Journal carried a report on 14 August, alleging that Facebook India ignored hate speeches made by BJP leaders like Singh and also ignored violation of ad rules in the platform.
A row erupted after the WSJ reported that Facebook's India policy head Ankhi Das had opposed the idea of removing incendiary posts by Singh, who called Muslim traitors, threatened to raze mosques and said "Rohingya Muslim immigrants should be shot".
Das has also been accused of openly supporting the BJP and wanting to use her position to help the BJP win.
The leaders with hate speech posts mentioned in the report include Singh and MP and former Union minister Anantkumar Hegde, reported.
With inputs from PTI
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