Whistleblowers are now a regular and valuable part of the business landscape. One must avoid hasty trials and await due process and investigation. However, this testimony generates all kinds of alarms. What are your reactions to this, given that India is a huge market for Facebook? “Anand Mahindra, President of Mahindra Group tweeted in recently leaked Facebook files.
Forget the Facebook outage. Recently leaked Facebook files on how it’s working are once again creating a stir around the world. And this may result in new problems for the social media giant in India, experts believe.
Already at odds with the Indian government, Facebook has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the new IT rules for social media intermediaries who must provide traceability. The petition will now be heard on October 22, 2021.
While the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology may convene Facebook regarding the latest leaked documents from Facebook, the Indian government may also order a new investigation into the matter, and Facebook may be asked to verify the findings of the Leaked internal document, sources say.
In addition, the West Bengal government may also launch a separate state-level investigation into targeted abuses and the spread of fake news during the recently concluded state assembly elections, says a source close to the West Bengal government.
In its response to the Standing Parliamentary Committee chaired by Shashi Tharoor, Facebook had previously claimed that it was also maintaining neutrality and global standards in India. But according to their internal report on Harmful Adversarial Networks – India, which was posted by CBS News, Facebook’s lack of Hindi and Bengali classifiers means that much of this content is never flagged and no action was taken.
“We have yet to submit a nomination for the appointment of this group given the political sensitivity,” says the study.
Commenting on this scenario, Rahul Goel, Partner at AnantLaw, said: “In light of recent media news about the fact that Facebook did not take any action against hate speech, the Indian government may initiate a investigation into the same and Facebook may be convened again by the Parliamentary Panel and the Delhi Assembly Committee (to seek clarification). In case of a new investigation, Facebook will be obliged to establish that it acted against hate speech in accordance with the laws of India (including the Information Technology Act and rules) and its own policy on hate speech. “
In the United States, whistleblower Frances Haugen, an algorithm specialist who worked as a product manager for Facebook for two years and addressed issues related to democracy, disinformation and counterintelligence, has already testified before the Senate. But the Indian authorities have yet to react to these documents.
With more than 410 million users from India, the country has the highest number of Facebook users. So any faulty policy or algorithm will affect most of them.
Incidentally, Facebook India’s revenue grew 43% YoY to roughly INR 1,277.3 Cr in FY 2020, while its net profit more than doubled to INR 135.7 Cr and gross ad turnover stood at INR 6,612.6 Cr.
The data underscores how India has become a key market for Facebook. The company made a large number of investments in the Indian market, including $ 5.7 billion in Jio Platforms and its WhatsApp messaging arm is critical to Reliance Retail’s online business.
What do the latest Facebook files reveal about India?
India has always been a political priority for Facebook, and its internal records show that the social media giant has ranked countries in Tier 0, Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 markets.
While Tier 0 includes India, Brazil, and the US, Tier 1 covers Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Israel, and similarly for Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets.
Although India is a political priority for Facebook, the industry giant failed to take adequate measures in this country to implement its community standards and stop hatred against race and religion or curb violence and incitement messages (V&I).
Facebook’s internal study on Adversarial Harmful Networks says: RSS (Indian nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) users, groups and pages promote anti-Muslim and terrorist narratives targeting pro-Hindu populations with V&I (violence and incitement) intent. .
“There was [sic] a series of dehumanizing publications comparing Muslims to pigs and dogs and misinformation that claims that the Quran requires men to rape their female relatives. Our lack of Hindi and Bengali classifiers means that much of this content is never flagged or activated. And we have yet to submit a nomination for the appointment of this group given the political sensitivity, “says the report.
The documents also reveal that political considerations routinely influence Facebook’s decision-making policy regarding politics. In August 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook India’s then head of public policy, Ankhi Das, had opposed the application of the hate speech rules to multiple politicians and groups who were internally flagged for promoting or participating in violence.
Das resigned a few days after TI’s parliamentary committee questioned Facebook for its bias towards specific content.
According to documents leaked by Haugen, while harmful echo chamber communities normalize harmful attitudes and behaviors, polarize communities in a more extreme direction, and radicalize individual members toward justifying harmful acts of violence, these communities are recommended to people, thanks to Facebook algorithms.
“40% of VPV civic posters (viewport views refers to content visible in a computer window) in West Bengal were fake / inauthentic,” says the report. There were authentic coordinated actors who planted and disseminated civic content to propagate political narratives.
Against fake Facebook books
Over the years, Facebook has apologized. There has been an ocean of statements and testimonies. But the old ghosts never rest and investigations continue to affect the reputation of the company.
Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data analyst, had previously rejected a $ 64,000 severance package from the company in order to speak out against its policies.
Also in the most recent case, Facebook seems to be incorporating its typical “fire, delay and apologize” tactics.
Mark Zuckerberg has already dismissed most of the allegations, saying: “We are deeply concerned with issues such as safety, well-being and mental health. It’s hard to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives. “
In response to The indian expressFacebook says it has invested significantly in technology that proactively detects hate speech even before people report it. “We now use this technology to proactively detect infringing content in Hindi and Bengali, along with more than 40 languages around the world.”
But will he be able to evade an investigation in India?
West Bengal has been working on a new law to discredit disinformation and stop the spread of hateful messages. The state has reportedly set up a database of fake news circulating on social media, in addition to keeping a register of serial offenders.
The state government has disagreed with the Center on multiple occasions. In the case of the Pegasus spy scandal, the state formed a separate committee led by former Supreme Court Justice Justice Madan Lokur to investigate the matter. However, the higher court has recommended the committee to act slowly as the matter is sub judice and the Center’s expert committee is investigating it.
A similar situation may arise again if the state government orders a separate investigation if the Center does not do so, experts believe. “However, if the Center orders the investigation first, West Bengal is likely to adopt a wait and watch policy,” said a policy adviser who did not want to be named.
In an ideal situation, the Center should initiate research on the subject of this scale and it is also very sensitive in nature. Either inciting mob violence or using AI-ML for amplification or spreading misinformation, fake news or swaying people’s minds (using MSI-like architecture) in favor of major advertisers or people in power, its supporters and more, there are many many problems that are difficult arise from a single investigation, said the policy adviser.
“At the same time, this will also depend on global findings and research, and that ultimately slows down the course of research in India,” he added.
The question is: When will Facebook get its own house in order?