In an online zoom briefing conducted on Thursday by 16 organisations which include the Indian American Muslim Council, experts have raised concerns about the role Facebook plays in encouraging Hindu supremacists to perpetuate hate crimes against Muslims, and other oppressed groups in the country.
Less than a month ago, whistleblower Frances Haugen had revealed in her testimony to United States officials the direct role Facebook played in pushing anti-Muslim narratives and it was only “political considerations” which prevented the media giant from taking action against hateful posts.
Speaking at the briefing, journalist and co-author of the book “The Real Face of Facebook in India”, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta remarked, “Some of the top executive officials of Facebook’s India team are very close to the ruling BJP and top officials in the government. Young people in India have been fed and indoctrinated on Facebook propaganda.”
An article published by Time.com illustrates the nature of anti-Muslim posts on Facebook. The article uses as an example, a Facebook video of priest Narsinghanand Saraswati (notorious for his comments on women, Muslims and in particular Prophet Mohammad).
In the said video, the “god-man” is evoking the age-old threat of “love jihad” and states, “It’s time for every Hindu to invoke the warrior in them. The day Hindus take weapons and start killing these Love Jihadis, this Love Jihad will come to an end. Until then, we can’t stop it.”
While Facebook was comfortable banning other conspiracy theories, it did not extend the same courtesy to “love-jihad” which in reality was a conspiracy theory before it blew up in the Indian political narrative.
Speaking about the same, associate professor Rohit Chopra, specializing in global and postcolonial media at Santa Clara University remarks, “Social media and online platforms share responsibility… for physical violence and even murder. It is not hyperbole to say that in the Indian context, social media platforms already have blood on their hands.”
“This is not a problem that can be solved by ignoring it. We need policy interventions and international pressure. Lynching after lynching, pogrom after pogrom… this is no accident. This is deliberate.” adds Samina Salim, associate professor at the University of Houston.
The briefing was co-hosted by Amnesty International USA, Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Dalit Solidarity Forum, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, Association of Indian Muslims of America among other groups.