Congress MP Rahul Gandhi took a swipe at social media giant Facebook Thursday after its India head told a parliamentary panel there was no cause to act against the Bajrang Dal – a right-wing group with ties to the ruling BJP – despite it being tagged as supporting violence against minorities.
In his tweet Mr Gandhi attached screenshots from two news reports. One was by The Wall Street Journal with the headline: “In India, Facebook Fears Crackdown on Hate Groups Could Backfire on Staff”. The second headline read: “Bajrang Dal Content wasn’t Offensive: FB Team to Parl Panel”.
“Facebook US says Bajrang Dal content is offensive and should be banned. Facebook India tells our Parliamentary panel that Bajrang Dal content is not offensive. Is Facebook lying to India and its Parliament?” Mr Gandhi wrote in his tweet.
Mr Gandhi circled a section of The Journal’s report, which read: “The social media company’s safety team earlier this year concluded Bajrang Dal supported violence against minorities in India and likely qualified as a “dangerous organization” that should be banned from the platform…”
Facebook US says Bajrang Dal content is offensive and should be banned.
Facebook India tells our Parliamentary panel that Bajrang Dal content is not offensive.
Is Facebook lying to India and its Parliament? pic.twitter.com/nx0FrZQfOY
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 17, 2020
On Wednesday Facebook India head Ajit Mohan told a parliamentary panel that the company’s fact-checking team found that Bajrang Dal content had not violated hate speech policies.
Mr Mohan, who had originally been summoned over data privacy fears, was asked this question after Congress MP Karti Chidambaram flagged The Journal’s report, which referred to a video in which the Bajrang Dal claimed responsibility for an attack on a church outside Delhi in June.
The video was allowed to collect 2.5 lakh views.
In August articles by The Journal and TIME alleged Facebook (and messaging service WhatsApp, which it owns) did not apply hate speech rules uniformly. The articles cited speeches by BJP leaders that were widely circulated ahead of violence in Delhi in February.
The Journal also said a Facebook executive – later identified as Ankhi Das, who stepped down in October – suggested that punishing violations by BJP workers “would damage business prospects”.
Facebook was summoned, and questioned by, a parliamentary panel on information technology (led by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor) that met with Mr Mohan in September.
In August news agency Reuters said Facebook was also facing questions from its employees on how political content is regulated its biggest market. An open letter by 11 employees called on company leaders to denounce “anti-Muslim bigotry” and ensure more policy consistency.
The social media giant has also been summoned by the Delhi Assembly’s Peace Committee, which is inquiring into violence that consumed the national capital earlier year. However, Mr Mohan declined the summons, calling it a “brazen violation of my fundamental rights”.
Facebook, which has previously also appeared before parliamentary panels in connection with this issue, says it applies hate speech rules uniformly, and without consideration to political parties.
However, it has also admitted it needs to do better to address the issue.
With input from Reuters