Facebook to curb hate speech amid elections in Indian states

WION Web Team
California, United States Published: Mar 31, 2021, 07:04 PM(IST)

India's flag is seen through a 3D printed Facebook logo in this illustration Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Facebook has been under fire globally for alleged lapses in controlling hate speech. In the United States, the social media giant put a months-long freeze on political, electoral and social ads to crack down on misinformation and abuses around the November 3 presidential elections

Facebook Inc said it was taking steps to combat hate speech and misinformation in India as part of its efforts to curb spread of misinformation during elections in four Indian states.

"We recognise that there are certain types of content, such as hate speech, that could lead to imminent, offline harm...To decrease the risk of problematic content going viral in these states and potentially inciting violence ahead of or during the election, we will significantly reduce the distribution of content that our proactive detection technology identifies as likely hate speech or violence and incitement," it added.

Facebook has been under fire globally for alleged lapses in controlling hate speech. In the United States, the social media giant put a months-long freeze on political, electoral and social ads to crack down on misinformation and abuses around the November 3 presidential elections.

Facebook has drawn flak in the past for its handling of hate speech on the platform in the country. India is among the biggest markets for Facebook and its group companies, WhatsApp and Instagram. According to government data, India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 41 crore Facebook users, and 21 crore users of Instagram.

The US-based company said it has invested significantly in proactive detection technology to help identify violating content more quickly.

In its blog, Facebook said based on lessons it has learned from past elections in India and globally, it is taking steps to enhance civic engagement, combat hate speech, limit misinformation and remove voter suppression amid elections across Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry.

"To decrease the risk of problematic content going viral in these states and potentially inciting violence ahead of or during the election, we will significantly reduce the distribution of content that our proactive detection technology identifies as likely hate speech or violence and incitement," Facebook said.

It has also designed Election Day reminders to give voters accurate information and encourage them to share it with friends on Facebook and WhatsApp, the company said.

In 2019, led by industry body IAMAI, Facebook had set up a high priority channel with the Election Commission of India (ECI) for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, to receive content-related escalations.

The company also works with third-party fact-checkers around the world, including eight partners in India, to provide people with additional context about the content they're seeing on Facebook.

In addition to English, these eight partners fact-check in 11 Indian languages including Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam and Assamese.

When a fact-checker rates a story as false, such content is labelled and shown lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

This stops its spread and reduces the number of people who see it, Facebook said. 

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