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Facebook moderators asked to censor ‘Free Kashmir’ phrase

Agencies

Moderators at Facebook tasked with removing dangerous content from the social networking site have been instructed to censure the phrase “Free Kashmir,” a media report says. The documents that are used to guide Facebook’s more than 7,500 moderators span more than 1,400 pages which often contain inaccuracies and outdated information, the New York Times reported on Thursday. One of these documents tells moderators that any post degrading an entire religion violates Indian law and should be flagged for removal. But the law prohibits such posts only in certain conditions, such as when the intention of the users is to inflame violence, Chinmayi Arun, a legal scholar, told the Times. Another document for moderators instructs them to “look out for” the phrase “Free Kashmir” – though the slogan, common among activists, is completely legal, the report said. The moderators are even warned that ignoring posts that use the phrase could get Facebook blocked in India. According to data compiled by Statista, India has the highest number of Facebook users – 294 million (as of October 2018) – 90 million more than the number of Facebook users in the US which has the second-biggest users-base for the social network. As Facebook faces severe criticism for allowing extremist content in some countries, and censoring legitimate posts in some other places, the job of moderators who need to monitor billions of posts every day in over 100 languages is very critical. Those moderators, at times relying on Google Translate, have mere seconds to recall countless rules and apply them to the hundreds of posts that dash across their screens each day, the NYT report said. An examination of the documents for moderators by the paper revealed numerous gaps, biases and errors, which are limited not only to interpretation of Indian laws. For example, the moderators were once told to remove fund-raising appeals for volcano victims in Indonesia just because a co-sponsor of the drive was on the social network’s internal list of banned groups. Similarly, in Myanmar, a paperwork error allowed a prominent extremist group, accused of fomenting genocide, to stay on the platform for months, the report said. While admitting that perfection was not possible, Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management, Monika Bickert, said that the company had been successful to a great extent in achieving its primary goal of preventing harm.

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