41 NGOs write to Zuckerberg demanding India team be barred from Facebook’s impact on human rights audit
The NGOs also demanded that Facebook's director for public policy in India, South and Central Asia, Ankhi Das be placed on leave and that FB publish the findings of the audit
In an open letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sherl Sandberg, over 40 NGOs have asked the social media platform to take decisive action against Facebook India's bias and its failure to address and contain dangerous content.
These 41 NGOs who have written the letter include the likes of the Dangerous Speech Project, Media Justice, Indian American Muslim Council, Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA), Fight for the Future, Sakhi for South Asian Women, South Asians Building Accountability & Healing (SABAH), Hope not Hate, Free Press, Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, Muslim Advocates, Free Press etc.
They also demanded that the Facebook India team be barred from the ongoing audit on Facebook's impact on human rights adding that the platform should publish the findings of this audit. They also demanded that Ankhi Das, Facebook India, South and Central Asia's Public Policy Director, be placed on leave.
The global rights activists have demanded that the ongoing human rights audit of Facebook India, that was reported by Time Magazine, be handled by the “ high level staff” from the Menlo Park office. They also wanted Facebook to increase their engagement with human rights and grassroots organisations for the audit and devise solutions to handle the issue of dangerous content on the platform.
You can read the full letter on this Twitter post shared by Times reporter Billy Perrigo. Perrrigo was the reporter behind Time Magazine's article titled - Facebook's Ties to India's Ruling Party Complicate Its Fight Against Hate Speech.
Breaking:— Billy Perrigo (@billyperrigo) September 9, 2020
40+ NGOs today sent an open letter to Zuckerberg demanding:
➡️ FB's India team be barred from influencing the ongoing audit (first reported by TIME) into FB's impact on human rights in India
➡️ FB publish its findings
➡️ Ankhi Das be placed on leave
Full letter: pic.twitter.com/DyUai2WbKR
The entire letter and the list of NGOs who have signed it can be seen here.
“The need to act is urgent - lives are at stake,” the letter states adding that Das be placed on leave till the audit is completed and the reports are shared publicly.
The NGOs have mentioned in the letter that there is a link between the content on Facebook and the violence witnessed offline and that's ‘no secret' but the WSJ article has revealed disturbing details that show how deep the problem actually runs.
The letter has mentioned that content posted on Facebook has lead to mass riots in India and general unrest for at least seven years now.
“A mislabeled video on social media was instrumental in stoking the horrific 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots in which 62 people were killed. A BJP politician was even arrested for sharing the video," the letter states.
The NGOs feel that an instance like this should have been enough for Zukcerberg and Facebook to take a moment from its daily operations and conduct a human rights audit to “ensure Facebook had the necessary corporate competencies and had taken human rights into account”.
However, none of this has happened and Facebook has continued to expand in India “without hesitation” the letter states.
Activists from across the world have demanded that Facebook takes immediate steps to make sure the ongoing audit is independent, thorough and encompassing caste, religious bias and election operations. For this, the NGOs want the Facebook India office be barred from being a part of the audit and Das be put on leave due to her failure to enforce Facebook's hate speech policies in India.
This letter comes after Time Magazine reported that Facebook has commissioned an independent audit on its impact on human rights in India to look into the platform's role in spreading hate speech and incite violence.
The audit was commissioned after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a report alleging that Das was against applying Facebook's hate speech rules to posts made by BJP leader T Raja Singh and three other party leaders and groups flagged internally for promoting violence.
However, Time Magazine reports that the India audit began before the WSJ article was published.
According to reports, the audit is being conducted by a US law firm Foley Hoag and it will include interviews of senior staff at Facebook India and members of the civil society.