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Facebook says it’s a non-partisan platform

Facing allegations of bias in handling hate speeches, Facebook on Friday said it is an open, transparent and non-partisan platform, and will continue to remove content posted by public figures in India that are in violation of its community standards.

The statement from Facebook India Head Ajit Mohan comes against the backdrop of a political row following a Wall Street Journal report that alleged that the social media platform’s content policies favored the ruling party in India.

“Facebook is and always has been an open, transparent and non-partisan platform where people can express themselves freely. Over the last few days, we have been accused of bias in the way we enforce our policies.

“We take allegations of bias incredibly seriously, and want to make it clear that we denounce hate and bigotry in any form,” Facebook India vice-president and managing director Mohan said in a blog post.

He also emphasized that the company has an impartial approach to dealing with content and is strongly governed by its community standards.

These standards outline what is and is not allowed on Facebook.

Facebook’s Oversight Board has said it will be within its scope to examine how the social media giant treats posts from public figures that may violate community standards and are the type of “highly challenging cases” that the board expects to consider once it starts functioning.

Asserting that Facebook’s commitment to India is unwavering, Mohan in the blog post said the company’s aim is to be an “ally” for India where its platforms preserve the “pluralistic character of democracy by offering the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things while also protecting society from broader harm”.

“Our Community Standards define what stays on our platform and are enforced globally… We enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position, party affiliation or religious and cultural belief. We have removed and will continue to remove content posted by public figures in India when it violates our Community Standards,” he said.

In the wake of the WSJ report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has summoned Facebook on September 2 to discuss the issue of alleged misuse of the social media platform.

On Friday, Mohan also said that many questions have been raised specifically about the enforcement of Facebook policies around hate speech and pointed out that it has made “significant progress” in removing hate speech and other harmful content over the past few years.

Mohan said the company had removed 22.5 million pieces of hate speech content in the second quarter of 2020, up from 1.6 million pieces of hate speech removed in the last quarter of 2017.

He also admitted that while the platform has made progress in tackling hate speech, it needed to do more and welcomed the opportunity to engage with all parties — political or otherwise — who want to understand its content policies and enforcement more.

Mohan noted that the policies are “ever-evolving” to take into account the local sensitivities, especially in a multicultural society such as India.