Facebook well aware of anti-Muslim narratives by RSS on platform, says whistleblower

Facebook was well aware of incendiary anti-Muslim narratives being promoted on the platform in India, whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen told United States authorities, The Wire reported.

Haugen has also cited internal company documents referring to fear-mongering content promoted by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh users, groups and pages.

She claimed that political considerations prevented Facebook from providing a designation to this group, in what seems to refer to the possibility of increased monitoring of RSS-related content.

Haugen referred to internal records on hateful content targeting Muslims in India.

There were a number of dehumanising posts comparing Muslims to ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs’ and misinformation claiming the Quran calls for men to rape their female family members, she quoted a company document as saying.

The document reportedly stated that no action is taken against much of this content as the company lacks “Hindi and Bengali classifiers”. Classifiers refer to algorithms that detect hate speech.

Haugen, through her lawyers, has filed at least eight complaints against Facebook with the US’ Securities and Exchange Commission, CBS News reported.

The complaints relate to making material misrepresentations and omissions in statements to investors through filings with the SEC, testimonies to the US Congress, online statements and media articles.

She reportedly based her complaints on tens of thousands of documents that she secretly copied before leaving Facebook in May. At least four of the complaints contain references to India, according to The Wire.

Haugen’s lawyer’s cited internal company documents to show that India is classified as a Tier-0 country, which implies that the company will pay more attention to the country during important election cycles. Apart from India, only the US and Brazil are classified in this category.

However, a separate section on misinformation reportedly suggests that the US receives 87% of the resources available for this purpose, while the rest of the world receives only 13%.

Haugen told US authorities that Facebook and Instagram knew in 2019 that the platforms were being used to “promote human trafficking and domestic servitude”, according to CBS News.

She has also alleged that Facebook failed to put in place measures to prevent misinformation and violent extremism in connection with the 2020 US election and the storming of the Capitol.

Lena Pietsch, Facebook’s director of policy communications, told the channel that the teams have to have to balance protecting the right of billions of people to express themselves openly with the need to keep our platform a safe and positive place.

Pietsch said the company was making improvements to tackle the spread of fake news and harmful content. “To suggest we encourage bad content and do nothing is just not true,” she added.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Haugen also testified before the US Congress saying that Facebook’s products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy”, Reuters reported.

She said that the buck stops with Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, but there was no one holding him to account.


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