Internal documents at Facebook show “a struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence” in India, the company’s biggest market, with researchers at the social media giant pointing out that there are groups and pages “replete with inflammatory and misleading anti-Muslim content” on its platform, U.S. media reports have said.
In a report published on Saturday, The New York Times said that in February 2019, a Facebook researcher created a user account to look into what the social media website will look like for a person living in Kerala.
For the next three weeks, the account operated by a simple rule: follow all the recommendations generated by Facebook’s algorithms to join groups, watch videos and explore new pages on the site.
The result was an inundation of hate speech, misinformation and celebrations of violence, which were documented in an internal Facebook report published later that month,” the NYT report said.
“Internal documents show a struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence in the country, the company’s biggest market,” said the report based on disclosures obtained by a consortium of news organisations, including The New York Times and the Associated Press.
The documents are part of a larger cache of material collected by whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who recently testified before the Senate about the company and its social media platforms.
The report said the internal documents include reports on how bots and fake accounts tied to the “country’s ruling party and Opposition figures” were wreaking havoc on national elections.
In an internal document titled “Adversarial Harmful Networks: India Case Study”, Facebook researchers wrote that there were groups and pages “replete with inflammatory and misleading anti-Muslim content”.
The internal documents also detail how a plan ‘championed’ by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to focus on “meaningful social interactions” was leading to more misinformation in India, particularly during the pandemic.
Efforts by Bajrang Dal
The NYT report said another Facebook report detailed efforts by Bajrang Dal to publish posts containing anti-Muslim narratives on the platform. “Facebook is considering designating the group as a dangerous organisation because it is ‘inciting religious violence’ on the platform, the document showed. But it has not yet done so,” the NYT report said.
The documents show that Facebook did not have enough resources in India and was not able to grapple with the problems it had introduced there, including anti-Muslim posts.
A Facebook spokesman, Andy Stone, said Facebook has reduced the amount of hate speech that people see globally by half this year.