Nearly three weeks after The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook India’s Public Policy Director Ankhi Das had objected to applying hate speech rules to BJP MLA T Raja Singh and at least three other “Hindu nationalist individuals and groups”, the company has decided to ban the MLA from the social media platform.
“We have banned Raja Singh from Facebook for violating our policy prohibiting those that promote or engage in violence and hate from having a presence on our platform. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to this decision,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Indian Express.
Sources said such a ban involves removing pages, groups, and accounts set up to represent the individual when the company knows that s/he is participating in that content.
When contacted by The Indian Express on Thursday, Singh, MLA from Goshamahal in Telangana, denied knowledge of any such ban and claimed that he has anyway had no account with Facebook for over a year.
“I never posted any hateful comments on any social media platform. Some of my fans and followers started Facebook pages in my name and may have posted some comments. I am glad Facebook has taken them down,” he said.
Singh claimed his Facebook account was first taken down in October 2018, before the Telangana elections, after which he started a new account. But in April 2019, before the Lok Sabha elections, his account was taken down again. The MLA said had tweeted about the takedowns on both occasions.
Facebook, however, did not verify Singh’s version of the takedowns.
Three weeks ago, The Indian Express found at least eight unofficial pages on the MLA. Singh had then told the Express: “My supporters across the country have been making pages in my name. We cannot stop anyone.”
While most of those pages are no longer on the platform, there are still a couple such as “T. RAJA SINGH YUVA SENA” and “Raja Singh Yuva Sena – RSYS”.
Raja Singh Lodh, 43, also called “Tiger Raja” for his aggressive stand on cow protection, is the only BJP MLA from Telangana.
More than 70 FIRs have been booked against him in Hyderabad, mostly over violation of curfew orders or giving hate speeches.
The WSJ report in August had said that Facebook staff concluded that the MLA and three others should be banned from the platform under a policy called ‘Dangerous Individuals and Organizations’, but Facebook India’s Public Policy Director Ankhi Das told them that “punishing violations” by BJP politicians “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country, Facebook’s biggest global market by number of users,” WSJ reported.
Sources familiar with the situation said Singh had been marked under this policy by Facebook for repeatedly violating policies, including for, according to the WSJ report, “his anti-Muslim rhetoric and his stated efforts to form a vigilante army to hunt down ‘traitors’.”
On Tuesday, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, accusing the social media platform and its staff of being biased against the ruling party. On the other hand, the Congress and TMC had sent letters to Zuckerberg, accusing Facebook of a pro-BJP bias.
On Thursday, Facebook’s head of Trust and Safety responded to the Congress, saying, “we take seriously the concerns and recommendations you raised on behalf of the Indian National Congress.”
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