A Facebook report revealed that the government of India had increased its data requests to the social media giant in the first half of this year as compared to the previous two years, a report by AP stated.
The report, released on November 16, says that that it received 16,580 data requests from the government in the January-June period as compared to 22,024 requests in all of 2017 and 13,613 in 2016.
Facebook said it provided data to the government in 53 per cent of the cases, as per the AP report.
The report did not disclose what the nature of data was. However, the Indian Express reported that the data usually related to law enforcement.
The company said it responded to government requests for data in accordance with applicable laws and its terms of service.
“Each and every request we receive is carefully reviewed for legal sufficiency and we may reject or require greater specificity on requests that appear overly broad or vague,” it said.
Facebook said it accepted government requests to preserve account information pending receipt of formal legal process.
“When we receive a preservation request, we will preserve a temporary snapshot of the relevant account information, but will not disclose any of the preserved records unless and until we receive formal and valid legal process,” it said.
Over the past one year, the social media giant headed by Mark Zuckerberg has been embroiled in controversies ranging from censoring posts and user accounts in 2016, for poorly handling user account information by being susceptible to breaches or letting third parties use such information as tools for analysing voter tendencies.
A documentary series by Channel 4 Dispatches has revealed that moderators at Facebook are protecting far-right activists by preventing their pages from getting deleted even after they violate the rules set up by the social media giant.
But in this, Facebook is not alone.
Recently, an internal company briefing produced by Google and accessed by Breitbart News argues that due to a variety of factors, including the election of President Trump, the “American tradition” of free speech on the internet is no longer viable.
The briefing titled the ‘Good Censor’, admits that Google and other tech platforms now “control the majority of online conversations” and have undertaken a “shift towards censorship” in response to unwelcome political events around the world. One such conflict zone which braves this online control is Indian Administered Kashmir.
The Google Censor document mentions that ‘Facebook and Twitter were implicated in governmental censorship of clashes between rebels and Indian authorities in Kashmir.’
“The platforms removed posts and suspended accounts about the events, including images of rebel Burhan Wani’s funeral, highlighting the platforms’ complicity with government censorship as they attempted to stay on the right side of global authorities,” the report says.
Facebook came under heavy criticism after it censored content related to killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed on July 8, 2016. In the aftermath, close to 100 people were killed by the Indian armed forces in protest that spread across Kashmir. The local police raided newspaper offices and seized thousands of printed copies.
Mobile phone coverage, landlines and internet services were curbed throughout the region.
The censorship started after the internet blew up with viral images of Burhan Wani’s funeral, with users posting it as their profile picture, or simply sharing it through their accounts.
Many found their accounts blocked or even deleted, with targets including Dibyesh Anand, an academic at the University of Westminster; Huma Dar, an academic at UC Berkley and California State and Mubashir Bukhari, a journalist writing for Kashmir Monitor.
Facebook’s response to the posts being removed were that the post ‘violated community standards’ and that “one of our main priorities is the comfort and safety of the people who use Facebook, and we don’t allow credible threats to harm others, support for violent organizations or exceedingly graphic content on Facebook.”
In a statement, Facebook said: “There is no place on Facebook for content that praises or supports terrorists, terrorists organisations or terrorism. We welcome discussion on these subjects but any terrorist content has to be clearly put in context which condemns these organisations and or their violent activities. Therefore, profiles and content supporting or praising Hizbul Mujahideen and Burhan Wani are removed as soon as they are reported to us. In this instance, some content was removed in error, but this has now been restored.”
The Washington Post had reported that the account of Arif Ayaz Parrey, an editor with an environmental magazine in New Delhi, was disabled for more than a day. Parray administered the Facebook account of a discussion group called the Kashmir Solidarity Network, whose page was also removed.
Professor Dibyesh Anand of London’s Westminster University had said his posts about the actions of Indian armed forces, which have drawn criticism for their violent tactics, were removed more than twice.
Apart from Facebook, a clampdown pattern on journalists reporting or photographing on gunfights between militants and armed forces has erupted in the past couple of days.
Journalists covering the gunfight in Fateh Kadal area of Srinagar city had been physically assaulted and abused by the Indian armed forces near the site of the gunfight.
The journalists had been performing their professional duties when the SOG and CRPF personnel started hitting them. At least ten journalists were physically assaulted by the forces.
“There was no stone pelting going on,” a journalist from news agency ABP told Free Press Kashmir over the phone. “All of us were just standing there, reporting from the ground and talking to DIG Kashmir when suddenly, there was a lot of shouting by the security men and then they started beating us. My cameraman was first hit on his left elbow. While I tried to stop them, I was also beaten. The DIG tried to intervene, but they completely disregarded him. Then SP North Kashmir also started beating a few people. I’m not sure if they were journalists.”
Moreover, the images of three journalists in Kashmir being physically assaulted by the Jammu and Kashmir police and Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) surfaced two weeks back.
The three journalists working with Srinagar based Kashmir Walla, had reportedly been detained in Nawab Bazar area of Srinagar city. Eyewitnesses said that the forces beat them up badly and took them away in an armoured Rakshak vehicle.
As the clashes between youth and the armed forces were reported from some areas of the city, the three journalists were outside the office premises when the forces barged at them.
The three journalists had been identified as Online News Editor of the Kashmir Walla, Saqib Mugloo, Features Writer, Kaiser Andrabi and Multimedia Journalist, Bhat Burhan.