‘Delhi riots could have been avoided had Facebook acted promptly’

New Delhi: Events like Delhi riots, Myanmar genocide and communal violence in Sri Lanka could easily have been averted had Facebook acted in a more proactive and prompt manner, former Facebook employee Mark Luckie told the Peace and Harmony Committee of Delhi government chaired by Raghav Chadha on Thursday.

For the very first time, an international Facebook employee came forward and deposed before a committee in India, unveiling the realities behind the curtain. Luckie’s testimony will be extremely crucial for the current proceedings being carried out by the committee.

Luckie, who is a digital strategist, journalist and author, revealed the fact while being examined as a key witness by the Peace and Harmony Committee.

Luckie is a crucial witness in the light of the allegations levelled in the complaints against Facebook in continuation of the proceedings against the firm.

Allegations against Facebook

There were allegations against Facebook over its conduct on various instances, including the conduct of free and fair elections, and the riots that broke out in East Delhi in February this year.

An employee with Facebook in 2017-18, Luckie has actively worked with various core teams and thus has relevant and significant insights which clearly throw light on the otherwise opaque functionality of Facebook as a corporation.

He had left Facebook in November 2018 after claiming that it inculcated a “misguided work system” which led to division in communities, especially by the actions and inactions of the company.

Luckie has led media partnerships for some of the influential social platforms in the world, including Facebook, Twitter and Reddit — an American social news aggregation, web content rating and discussion website.

Scathing revelations

The Delhi government said in a statement that Luckie made scathing revelations on the internal functioning of Facebook, thus spilling the beans on the entire organisational structure of Facebook, globally as well as regionally.

Luckie affirmed that there has been repeated interference by the top officials of Facebook teams, including the policy heads, at the instance of the political parties upon content moderation teams which has caused eventual compromise in the execution of its own community standards, the statement said.

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He has affirmed that Facebook has been creating policies with respect to efficient content moderation which are not consistent or even transparent and are developed in a manner that suits Facebook and its business model rather than the persons who have been victimised by its inefficient policies.

Luckie also accused Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg of various liaisons with different political parties across the globe in order to earn special benefits or favours as it is of common knowledge that many prominent political figures seek his indulgence every now and then.

He asserted that the liaising carried out by the top honchos of Facebook and its regional heads of countries where it has considerable market contributed to disruption of peace and harmony in the society.

The former Facebook employee asserted that “there would be more peace and harmonious situation if Facebook allows its content moderators to work freely”.

Recruitment process of top heads

Speaking about the recruitment process of the top heads of the company, Luckie said that “for an extremely important post like that of Public Policy Head, persons having cordial government relations or having special political affiliations and who have strong hold on lobbying within the government are preferred”, a practice which in itself casts a shadow on the ‘politically agnostic management’ stance which Facebook often tries to shield under.

Luckie said that Facebook would like the world to believe that it is politically agnostic to maintain a safe image. However, it isn’t as agnostic as it claims to be. It appoints such persons at the helm of affairs who can fetch commercial benefits for the company.

He mentioned that the intention behind recruiting persons with government influence is that Facebook wants an eventual and effectual change in the existing laws and government policies to accommodate the platform in a manner that it can generate maximum business.

Another reason is that politically associated persons as company employees can also strike a deal with the government in the event of damage, if any, caused by Facebook for numerous reasons.

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He further affirmed that the adverse fallout of this improper manner of recruitment is that it leads to forming a pool of like-minded people with similar prejudices and biases and thus becomes unsafe for minority communities, while the hegemony exercised by these top-level officials also stalls the enactment of effective rules and regulations to anoint some accountability to Facebook.

Luckie said that “the executive team of Facebook, including Mark Zuckerberg, is aware of such gross inaction and misappropriation of the community standards. However, more than often it doesn’t get condoned by the executive team until it is actually garnering negativity or affecting its revenue generation adversely”.

“One of the downfalls of Facebook is that it doesn’t want people to know about its internal functioning, hierarchical structure as well as about its employees. They deliberately refrain from infusing transparency in their operational structure,” Luckie said.

He also asserted the events like Delhi riots, Myanmar genocide and communal violence in Sri Lanka could have been easily averted had Facebook acted in a more proactive and prompt manner.

He also mentioned that Facebook has all the means to contain and prevent disastrous dissemination of hateful content on its platform as it is capable of developing most efficient algorithms, and has the best human resources and technological advancements yet it does not act on them deliberately.

Formed in wake of the Delhi riots, the Peace and Harmony Committee had received many complaints, which said that Facebook did not remove hurtful content from its platform.

In this regard, the committee initiated its first round of proceedings by summoning the witnesses, including journalist and author Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and digital rights activist and journalist Nikhil Pahwa, to assist the committee.

The committee has taken cognisance of the complaints against Facebook officials. The social media platform has faced criticism over allegations that it favours the BJP-led NDA government to push its own business goals in Asia’s third largest economy.

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