‘Virality of hate posts brings you revenue’: Delhi panel slams Facebook

Committee takes social media to task in connection with the February 2020 riots in the capital

Shivnath Thukral, the public policy director of Facebook (Meta Platforms)

A Delhi assembly committee looking into the February 2020 riots in the capital, in which 53 people were killed, on Thursday accused Facebook India of profiting from the “virality of hate posts”.

Hearing a representation by Shivnath Thukral, the public policy director of Facebook India (Meta Platforms), in the assembly, the chairman of the Peace and Harmony Committee, Raghav Chadha, asked the company for records of users’ reports (complaints) on the content posted on the platform one month prior and two months after the northeast Delhi riots.

“Hate hurts us. We don’t want hate on our platform. Our advertisers don’t want either. We are continuously working on it,” Thukral said.

To this, Chadha responded: “I am not sure whether hate hurts you, because you are a business and virality of hate posts bring you revenue.”

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Also read: ‘Witness saw murder through gap in wall’ during Delhi riots

During a live-streamed session, Chadha also asked the Facebook official about the social media giant’s organisational structure, complaints redressal mechanism, community standards and hate speech definitions.

“What is the religious affiliation of people working in Facebook India,” asked Chaddha. 

Thukral said the company has 300 employees in the country, around 20 in the policy team. “We don’t maintain records regarding the number of religious minority employees as the law of land doesn’t allow that,” he said.

The panel asked Facebook if it defined hate speech in the Indian context. Without giving a specific response, Thukral said: “We have to balance between free speech and safety. Based on the inputs, in Indian context we have included caste in hate speech.”

Asked specifically whether there was a hate speech policy for India, the Facebook official used the right to not answer.

“Five billion dollars was invested this year alone for safety and security. We are mindful and take the issue seriously. I don’t sleep peacefully with hate,” Thukral said.

Facebook was also asked how fast it acted on complaints. “Within 24 hours an acknowledgement is given on complaints and if it the content violates policy, it’s taken down immediately,” Thukral said.

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