Kashmir Indepth

Facebook afraid of Bajrang Dal, went soft on it to protect business, staff: WSJ report

Despite being tagged by Facebook’s security team as a potentially dangerous organisation that supports violence against minorities across India, the Bajrang Dal has been allowed to thrive on the social network out of political and safety considerations, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

Facebook has dithered on acting against the right-wing group with ties to the ruling BJP because “cracking down on Bajrang Dal might endanger both the company’s business prospects and its staff in India”, the newspaper wrote, reaffirming its reportage earlier this year on the subject.

In August, the Journal had reported on an alleged bias in Facebook’s policies that favoured the ruling BJP out of business interests and said former Facebook executive Ankhi Das lobbied in favour of a leader of the ruling party who made anti-Muslim comments.

Facebook, which banned the politician just days after the report was published, denied the most egregious of charges but admitted that it had to do better to curb hate speech. Das stepped down from the company soon after.

The latest report by The Wall Street Journal cited Facebook’s actions surrounding a video by the Bajrang Dal which claimed responsibility for an attack on a church outside New Delhi in June that has been allowed to collect 2.5 lakh views.

“Besides risking infuriating India’s ruling Hindu nationalist politicians, banning Bajrang Dal might precipitate physical attacks against Facebook personnel or facilities,” an internal Facebook report said, according to the newspaper.

“A group of Facebook’s employees said in an internal letter and posts on Facebook discussion groups that the presence of Bajrang Dal on its platform, among other organisations, casts doubt on the company’s commitment to tackle hate speech in India,” it said.

Responding to the article, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told the Journal, “We enforce our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy globally without regard to political position or party affiliation.”

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