February 13, 2021 1:26:44 am
In its first case related to India, Facebook’s Oversight Board ruled against the social media platform’s decision to remove a post that it considered “a veiled threat” against non-Muslims under its Violence and Incitement Community Standard.
“Just as people have the right to criticise religions or religious figures, religious people also have the right to express offence at such expression,” Facebook’s Oversight Board said while overruling the decision. The case was part of the first batch of seven cases that the Board had taken up.
The case – referred by Facebook itself – is of a user’s appeal against content removal for allegedly violating the company’s “violence and incitement” policy. In late October 2020, Facebook said a user posted in a public group, described as a forum for Indian Muslims, a meme featuring an image from a Turkish television show “Dirilis: Ertugrul” depicting one of the show’s characters in leather armour holding a sheathed sword.
Speaking to The Indian Express, National Law School of India University Vice-Chancellor and Oversight Board member from India, Professor Sudhir Krishnaswamy, said the Board’s decision is deeply rooted in the local, political and cultural context of India.
“This was a complex case because although the post references India geographically, it talks of France and boycotting French goods,” Krishnaswamy said explaining why the Board did not consider it to be a veiled threat.
“If the tongue of the kafir starts against the Prophet, then the sword should be taken out of the sheath,” Facebook’s translation of the text overlay in the post from Hindi read. Facebook said the post also included hashtags referring to President Emmanuel Macron of France as the devil and calling for the boycott of French products.
In its referral, Facebook noted that this content highlighted the tension between what it considered religious speech and a possible threat of violence, even if not made explicit.
“While a minority viewed the post as threatening some form of violent response to blasphemy, the majority considered the references to President Macron and the boycott of French products as calls to action that are not necessarily violent. Although the television show character holds a sword, the majority interpreted the post as criticising Macron’s response to religiously motivated violence, rather than threatening violence itself,” a statement by Facebook said.
Facebook’s Oversight Board, first announced in 2018 by CEO Mark Zuckerberg is similar to an internal, independent court whose decisions the company cannot overrule.
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