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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Delhi riots: Former Facebook employee deposes before House panel

Appearing via video conferencing, Mark S Luckie alleged the platform’s community standards have been compromised due to “repeated interference” by top executives, including policy heads, at the behest of political parties.

Written by Sourav Roy Barman | New Delhi | Updated: November 13, 2020 9:04:56 am
facebook, facebook on delhi riots, northeast delhi riots, delhi riots 2020, Mark S Luckie, delhi city news, indian expressIn September, Facebook had approached the SC after its India vice president Ajit Mohan was summoned to depose before the committee. (Reuters)

An ex-Facebook strategic partner manager for global influencers, who had quit in 2018 after accusing it of “failing its Black employees”, Thursday deposed before a Delhi Assembly panel, which is conducting a hearing on the social media platform’s alleged role in fanning the February Northeast Delhi riots. Appearing via video conferencing, Mark S Luckie alleged the platform’s community standards have been compromised due to “repeated interference” by top executives, including policy heads, at the behest of political parties.

To a query on Facebook’s role in abetting violence, Luckie said: “Facebook will tell you, they are just like the telephone… it’s not telephone or email. It actively interferes in what people see and what they don’t. It changes its algorithm, allows certain content to stay up and… be taken down. So Facebook does influence, aid a lot of this violence and misinformation to continue. Unfortunately, people are dying because of it, that… needs to be stopped.”

Facebook did not respond to requests seeking a comment. In September, Facebook had approached the SC after its India vice president Ajit Mohan was summoned to depose before the committee. Facebook had argued the panel has no jurisdiction, a stand backed by the Centre. The case is now listed to be heard next on December 2.

Responding to a query by committee chairman Raghav Chadha on whether Facebook could have taken down hateful content more proactively during the Delhi riots, Luckie said such posts are flagged to supervisors depending on the number of people reporting them, and involvement of higher level executives go up depending on the scale and magnitude of an event.

Luckie also alleged Facebook’s public policy heads across countries usually “come from government or lobbying positions”. Asked if there is bias in the recruitment process for pro-establishment figures, he said, “It is more often the rule than the exception. Facebook would like the world to believe it is politically agnostic to maintain a safe image… it isn’t….”

Facebook’s policy director for India, South and Central Asia Ankhi Das quit the company last month amid a controversy over the company’s regulation of hate speech, political content and application of community standards. Das’s resignation came four days after she appeared before a Parliamentary panel which questioned her on Facebook’s advertisement model, its targeting of audiences, earnings and taxes and its models for data storage and transfer.

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