The lack of India-specific hate speech regulations on Facebook is concerning, Says Delhi committee looking into 2020 riots

Facebook India public policy director appeared before Delhi Committee.

The committee is worried at learning that Facebook was using global hate speech norms in India.

Shivnath Thukral, Facebook India’s public policy director, appeared before the Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee on Thursday in connection with the 2020 Delhi riots, informing committee members that Facebook does not have any India-specific hate speech guidelines. Instead, he claims that the social media giant applies global community standards to identify and prohibit hate speech in India and that the method is robust enough to deal with local issues.

The Delhi government committee is investigating how social media was used to disseminate communal messages prior to and during the riots. While Facebook representatives, including managing director Ajit Mohan, were called for a hearing last year. The Supreme Court (SC) finally settled the case following a long legal battle. The Supreme Court ordered that officials from Facebook appear before the committee.

On Thursday, the committee, led by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Raghav Chadha, sought to learn if Facebook is liable to any Indian-specific hate speech laws. Thukral stated that Facebook community standards are used all across the world and that they are valid in India. He also mentioned that the standards are always changing. He remarked that caste insults were seldom used in hate speech a few years ago, but that has now changed.

After a series of questions, Chadha noted that it is worrying that there is no static definition of hate speech specific to the Indian context. “For the committee to dive deep into this, it needs a foundation of a definition. If we do not have a foundation of a definition, it certainly prohibits us from proceeding,” said Chadha.

Thukral noted that what occurs on the platform replicates in the real world. He stated that Facebook allows people to express themselves and build communities, as well as enables like-minded people to empower small businesses. He indicated that social media is being blamed for “problems that run deeper into society.” He cited a recent global debate and said that Facebook cannot be subjected to unfair trials based on “selectively leaked documents painting false patterns of our company.”

The Delhi Assembly has heard seven witnesses so far as it investigates the role of social media in the Delhi riots, which killed over 50 lives and wounded hundreds.


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