Whistleblowers Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang and more than 20 activist organizations have been pressurizing Meta to release a delayed report on the human rights impact of Facebook in India. Papers leaked by Haugen in October 2021 revealed that Indian users faced overexposure to fake news and anti-Muslim propaganda. Critics have alleged that the company is deliberately trying to obscure the concerns. According to reports, Meta supposedly commissioned the report in 2020 to investigate the alarming volume of hate speech on Facebook in India, but it’s still not available.
Where is the Report on Human Rights Impact of Facebook in India?
The social media giant has been facing more criticism over its management of abuse on Facebook after Haugen leaked the internal documents. The papers revealed that Meta only cared about its profit from the huge markets and failed to police the abusive content. In countries with massive populations, the abusive material will likely cause much more damage.
Former chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission, Zafarul-Islam, spoke about the issue in a press conference organized by Facebook critics called “Real Facebook Oversight Board”. He said that Indian Muslims had been dehumanized by the onslaught of hate against them on Facebook, which has made them “helpless and voiceless”.
Meta reportedly commissioned a law firm called Foley Hoag in 2020 to review the human rights impact of Facebook in India independently. However, it is 2022 now, and the report is nowhere to be found. Activists have alleged that the company has repeatedly delayed the report’s release.
Facebook is a Haven for Hate Mongers in India
Haugen’s leaked documents also showed how the tech giant failed to monitor inappropriate content, specifically in countries with most users. The largest market for Facebook is India with over 340 million users, which makes up around 12% of its total market. In contrast, the US is only 10%. It means that for the sake of keeping this large market, Facebook failed to take action against anti-Muslim posts to avoid pissing off India’s extremist leaders with genuine agenda against Muslims.
It let fake news, hate speech, and anti-Muslim posts run rampant in India. Moreover, it also let state-run bots interfere with elections in the country. The papers highlighted that the company did not allocate resources proportionally to its non-English markets. Haugen revealed that Facebook only reserved 13% of its global misinformation budget to countries other than the US.
India’s civil rights activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad mentioned that such a budget was problematic for a country like India, with over 22 official languages. She also reiterated how Facebook allowed provocative content that became a tool for far-extremists in India, who target women, Dalits, and other minorities. Such concerns have intensified the calls against Meta to swiftly release the report on the human rights impact of Facebook in India.
What Does Meta Has to Say?
The Director of human rights policy at Facebook, Miranda Sissons, stated that the company wanted to conduct a “thorough assessment” due to the “complexity of this work”. She further announced that there would be an annual report on how the tech giant was addressing the human rights impact of Facebook as per its company policies.
Haugen said that Facebook’s operations were hidden behind a veil, but “we” must push for transparency to understand what this company was doing. She warned that India would be at risk of further violence as long as Meta did not publish the report. She has highlighted many flaws in the Facebook’s system that can be exploited to compromise user safety.
Other reports also found out that Facebook was being used in Myanmar and Ethiopia to spread content that intensified violence over there.