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Friday, December 03, 2021

2020 Delhi riots: House panel grills Facebook on its ‘hate speech’ guidelines for India

The Committee was formed in March 2020 to “consider the factors and situations which have the potential to disturb communal harmony” in the city and “suggest measures to eliminate such factors”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: November 19, 2021 7:55:09 am
Security forces in Northeast Delhi, after the violence. (Express Photo/File)

The Delhi Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony has asked Facebook, now called Meta, to provide a record of all audience reports or complaints made to it a month prior and two months after the February 2020 riots in Delhi.

The Committee was formed in March 2020 to “consider the factors and situations which have the potential to disturb communal harmony” in the city and “suggest measures to eliminate such factors”. Instead of Facebook India Managing Director Ajit Mohan, to whom summons had been issued earlier, Public Policy Director Shivnath Thukral appeared before the Committee Thursday.

The Committee also asked the social network giant to present a list of instances where a fact-checking exercise was undertaken by its fact-checking partners from January 1, 2020 to the end of April 2020. Thukral said that he would be “happy to look at requests as per law”.

Committee Chairperson Raghav Chadha quizzed Thukral on the process followed to take down objectionable content and its definition of hate speech. Thukral said machine learning and human intervention are both used to identify objectionable content, fake news and hate speech. “The volumes cannot be managed by human intervention alone. Machine learning is important as well. We have tools to detect problematic content… across the globe, 40,000 people are working on safety and security on the platform and 15,000 are working on content moderation globally,” he said.

MLA BS Joon, who is also a member of the committee, grilled Thukral on the definition of hate speech in the Indian context and how long “problematic” content continues to stay up if a complaint is filed. Thukral said if it is clear that the content violates its community guidelines, it is taken down immediately. In case of user complaints, they are mandated to acknowledge within 24 hours and have to respond within 14 days.

“Fourteen days? The damage is already done by then,” Joon remarked during the proceedings.

Chadha said it was “very worrying” that Facebook did not have a “standalone, individual definition” of hate speech in the Indian context. Thukral said its community standards are a global document and hate speech guidelines apply across the world. “It is very worrying that there is no definition for India, a market from where you get 40% of your users,” Chadha said.

Thukral told the committee that hate speech on the platform was a problem for them. “Hate hurts us. We don’t want hate on our platform,” he said. Chadha replied: “I am not sure if hate hurts you because virality of hate posts brings you revenue.”

Facebook had earlier gone to the Supreme Court against summons issued by the Committee to Mohan. In July, the SC refused to quash summons. It, however, said the Committee “cannot have a misconception that it is some kind of a prosecuting agency”.


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