Facebook fears crackdown on radical Hindu extremist group might endanger company in India: Report

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New Delhi: Despite an internal assessment calling for a ban on ‘dangerous’ Hindu nationalist group Bajrang Dal for its support to violence against minorities, Facebook has not cracked down on the group over financial and safety considerations, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report said.

Facebook has dithered on acting against the right-wing group with ties to the ruling BJP because “cracking down on Bajrang Dal might endanger both the company’s business prospects and its staff in India”, the newspaper wrote, reaffirming its reportage earlier this year on the subject.

The journal this year in August had reported on an alleged bias in Facebook’s policies that favoured the ruling BJP out of business interests and said former Facebook executive Ankhi Das lobbied in favour of a leader of the ruling party who made anti-Muslim comments.

Facebook, which banned the politician just days after the report was published, denied the most egregious of charges but admitted that it had to do better to curb hate speech. Ms Das stepped down from the company soon after.

The latest report by The Wall Street Journal cited Facebook’s actions surrounding a video by the Bajrang Dal which claimed responsibility for an attack on a church outside New Delhi in June that has been allowed to collect 2.5 lakh views.

“Besides risking infuriating India’s ruling Hindu nationalist politicians, banning Bajrang Dal might precipitate physical attacks against Facebook personnel or facilities,” an internal Facebook report said, according to the newspaper.

“A group of Facebook’s employees said in an internal letter and posts on Facebook discussion groups that the presence of Bajrang Dal on its platform, among other organisations, casts doubt on the company’s commitment to tackle hate speech in India,” it said.

Quoting Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone, the Journal reported: “We enforce our Dangerous Individuals and Organisation policy globally without regard to a political position or party affiliation.”

According to the WSJ report, Bajrang Dal is considered a “militant religious organisation” by the US’ Central Intelligence Agency. Facebook communities devoted to the group “celebrate images of people beaten or killed for their alleged offences against Hinduism”.

Facebook-owned analytics tool CrowdTangle shows there were over “5.5 million interactions” in 2020 from a “handful of groups and pages devoted to Bajrang Dal”.


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