Skip to main content

Meta rights report 'fails' to indict BJP, FB algorithms 'intrinsically majoritarian'

By Our Representative 

In a US Congressional briefing, two Facebook employees-turned-whistleblowers Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang have slammed a human rights report from Meta, the company that owns Facebook, for failing to acknowledge its role in spreading disinformation and hate speech in India, especially from those belonging to India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
That Meta’s first-ever global Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) report released in July has failed to address its complicity in the spread of disinformation in India underscored that the social media giant prioritized profit over combating hate, Haugen and Zhang said at the Congressional briefing, organised by several US-based civil rights groups, many of them consisting of Indian diaspora.
The briefing was co-hosted by Genocide Watch, World Without Genocide, Indian American Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights, International Christian Concern, Jubilee Campaign, 21Wilberforce, Dalit Solidarity Forum, New York State Council of Churches, Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America, India Civil Watch International, Center for Pluralism, International Commission for Dalit Rights, American Muslim Institution, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, International Society for Peace and Justice, Humanism Project and Association of Indian Muslims of America.
Haugen, who turned a global celebrity last year upon sharing tens of thousands of incriminating documents with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, dismissed Meta’s claim of protecting human rights and providing remedies for negative impacts.
“Facebook's report points [that] they have an oversight board that people can appeal to, that they're transparent about what they take down,” Haugen said during the virtual Briefing. "But the reality is that they won't give us even very basic data on what content moderation systems exist in which languages and the performance of those systems.”
Facebook had “under-invested” in high-quality content moderation systems and “rolled out the bare minimum” for them, she said. “They won't even let us see samples of how these systems perform [as] activists are having their content taken down.”
The only country you can actually read about in Meta’s report is the US, which has the “safest, most sanitized version of Facebook… the cleanest corner of Facebook.” On the other hand, non-English languages “get less investment [and] quality assessment.”
Facebook’s own regular checks of the top ten posts in countries facing conflict found that “post after post would be horrific [with] gory images, severed heads… We would sit there and discuss, like, how did this get through? Why was this getting the most distribution?” Haugen said of her time as a product manager with Facebook’s civic integrity department.
“Facebook's products are designed to give the most reach to the most extreme content,” and its algorithms were “intrinsically majoritarian” as the content that gets a better reaction from the majority gets “more distribution… Human rights and Facebook are intertwined. We can't advance human rights, [and] we can't have safe discourse unless Facebook actively participates and has a relationship with the public,” Haugen claimed.
Fired from Facebook in 2020 as a data scientist after she exposed its failure to combat allegedly fake and abusive content, Zhang said Facebook faced “the most political interference in India” and was “most deferential” to the Indian government because of India’s “increased willingness” to threaten action and “the lack of public reaction” in support of a “tougher line” in India.
“Facebook has effectively conducted a massive donation in kind to authoritarian governments by refusing to act and allowing their bad behavior to continue,” Zhang said, adding that it was “biased towards those in power.” The people “who can regulate Facebook and force you to change the situation have no incentive to change [it.] The only people who want to change the situation are those not in power who cannot change it.”
Facebook’s failure to control hate speech and disinformation in India could have serious consequences. “if Facebook leads to the degradation of democracy in India, that will hurt its relationships with the United States and American interests globally,” she said.
Zhang said Meta refused to close fake accounts in India that she uncovered because they were linked to a BJP member of Parliament. “As soon as the discovery was made, I could not get an answer from anyone. It was as if they had stonewalled me,” she said. “Facebook did not want to say yes because they were afraid of any important parliamentary figure.”
Facebook cared “not about saving the world and protecting democracy. It cares about its profit. [It] has a strong incentive to be solicitous and differential towards the ruling party.”

Comments

TRENDING

Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

India's "welcome" proposal to impose sin tax on aerated drinks is part of to fight growing sugar consumption

By Amit Srivastava* A proposal to tax sugar sweetened beverages like tobacco in India has been welcomed by public health advocates. The proposal to increase sin taxes on aerated drinks is part of the recommendations made by India’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian on the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in the parliament of India.

Turkey meet tries to 'resurrect' Maoism, seeks to apply people’s war concept universally

By Harsh Thakor*  An International Maoist Symposium was organized by Umut Publishing on 6-7th April in Turkey commemorating 130th birthday of Mao Tse Tung. On the first day of the symposium two sessions were staged. The first session started with Volkan Yaraşır’s presentation on “Dialectics of the Chinese Revolution and Mao Zedong”.

IMA vs Ramdev: Why what's good or bad for goose should be good or bad for gander

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD* Baba Ramdev and his associate Balkrishna faced the wrath of the Supreme Court for their propaganda about their Ayurvedic products and belittling mainstream medicine. Baba Ramdev had to apologize in court. His apology was not accepted and he may face the contempt of court with harsher punishment. The Supreme Court acted on a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).