Facebook bans BJP MLA for promoting violence, hateful content

Srinagar: Taking action against spreading hateful content on social media, Facebook has banned T Raja Singh, a BJP MLA from Telangana, following a row of complaints that Facebook did not apply hate speech rules on members of the ruling BJP.

The spokesperson of the social media giant told a Delhi based news organisation NDTV that Singh was banned for violating Facebook’s policy on content promoting hate and violence.

“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 report quoted Facebook spokesperson as having said in an emailed statement.

Keeping in view the earlier conditions, Facebook added that the process for evaluating potential violators “is extensive and that is what led them to remove his account”.

The action against Singh comes after many people including political leaders opposed his hateful content and wrote to Facebook to review his handle.

According to the report, Singh has been listed under Facebook’s “dangerous individuals and organisations policy” and will not be allowed to maintain a presence on the platform going forward.

As the decision to ban his account has been passed, the BJP MLA, as part of the process, will not be allowed on Facebook or its photo and video-sharing platform Instagram.

The company will also remove Pages, Groups and accounts set up to represent him. However, it will continue to allow wider discussion of him, including praise and support, the report mentioned.

On September 2, officials from Facebook appeared before a parliamentary panel led by Congress MP and senior leader  Shashi Tharoor and faced questions on political bias from both sides of the divide.

Last month, the BJP leader had claimed in a video that he does not have any official Facebook page. “I have got to know many FB pages are using my name. Let me clarify I’m not having any official page, I’m not responsible for any of their posts,” he had said.

Claiming that his official Facebook account was “hacked and blocked in 2018”, Singh had disowned communally-loaded posts.

In the video he tweeted on August 16, Singh said: “I am being projected in such a way that I am the most dangerous in the entire world (like) when he (Raja Singh) says something on social media, then something or the other happens.” He claimed he had one official YouTube account and one official Twitter account.

Earlier in August, after an article published by The Wall Street Journal cited interviews with unnamed Facebook insiders to claim that the company’s senior India policy executive Ankhi Das intervened in internal content review processes to stop a ban on Singh, for making communally charged posts targeting the Muslim community.

Facebook ignored this kind of hate speech policy and allowed anti-Muslim posts on its platform to “avoid ruining the social media company’s relationship with India’s governing party,” says the report in the Wall Street Journal.

Ankhi Das, the report added, “told staff members that punishing violations by politicians from Mr. Modi’s party would damage the company’s business prospects in the country”.

However, Facebook denied the allegation and said it was “still reviewing” whether it had to act against BJP’s Telangana MLA T Raja Singh, for posting communal content targeting the Muslim community.

The WSJ report said Das, Facebook’s executive in India, refused to apply the company’s hate speech rules to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians and other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups”.

A day later, Facebook issued a statement saying that its “policies are not in favour” of anyone.

The spokesperson of the social media giant said that it enforces policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation, adding that company is making progress on enforcing and conducting regular audits of its processes to ensure fairness and accuracy.

Reacting to this, the former president of Indian National Congress and leader of the opposition, Rahul Gandhi had said that BJP leader is “spreading hate and use it to influence the electorate.”

In a tweet, Gandhi said: “they spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook”.

In another tweet, he said: “BJP-RSS controls Facebook and WhatsApp in India. Through this, they lure voters by spreading false news and hate. After all, the American media has exposed the truth of Facebook.”

On the same day, senior Congress leader and Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor tweeted out saying; “The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from @Facebook about these reports & what they propose to do about hate-speech in India”.

Besides the duo, Congress leaders Ajay Maken, Praveen Chakravarty and Rohan Gupta, also demanded the creation of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into the matter.

Last year on July 26, the BJP leader known for his hate speech, said that the “war for gau raksha” (cow protection) and incident of lynchings will not stop till the time cow receives the status of “Rashtra Mata” (Mother of the Nation).

He also urged the other parliamentarians to demand this in Parliament and said that he does not want “khoon-kharaba” (bloodletting) on the issue.

“Till cow is not accorded the status of ‘Rashtra Mata’, I feel the war for ‘gau raksha’ will not stop even if ‘gau rakshaks’ (cow protectors) are put into jails or bullets are fired at them,” Singh said.

Seeking Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s support, Singh expressed that violence over cow protection will not stop until a ministry of cow protection is created in every state and stringent laws are enacted for gau raksha.


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