Social media giant in India is facing heat after a right-wing Hindu lawmaker T Raja Singh posted comments and made speeches saying Rohingya Muslim refugees should be shot, Muslims were traitors and threatened to raze mosques.

India's flag is seen through a 3D printed Facebook logo in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019.
India's flag is seen through a 3D printed Facebook logo in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019. (Reuters)

Social media giant Facebook has admitted it has to do better to curb hate speech as it battles a storm over how it handled comments by a member of India's ruling right-wing party who called Muslims traitors.

"We've made progress on tackling hate speech on our platform, but we need to do more," Facebook India's managing director Ajit Mohan said in a statement on Friday that denied any bias.

Right-wing Hindu lawmaker T Raja Singh posted comments and made speeches saying that Rohingya Muslim refugees should be shot, Muslims were traitors and threatened to raze mosques.

Facebook has been caught in growing controversy in its biggest market in terms of users since The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that an executive refused to remove the comments because it would damage the company's business interests.

"Over the last few days, we have been accused of bias in the way we enforce our policies. We take allegations of bias incredibly seriously, and want to make it clear that we denounce hate and bigotry in any form," said Mohan.

Facebook defends policy 

The Facebook India chief defended his company's actions and said "we have removed and will continue to remove content posted by public figures in India when it violates our community standards."

"We will continue to invest in our efforts to combat hate speech on our services," he added.

Mohan did not give details however and his online post did not explain the case of Raja Singh, a member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Facebook India's top public policy executive, Ankhi Das, told staff that hate speech rules should not be applied to BJP individuals and party allies even though the post had been flagged by staff, the WSJ reported.

After the article, Facebook India head Mohan defended Das, whose title is Director, Public Policy, India, South & Central Asia, and the company's policies in an internal community post, also seen by Reuters.

The WSJ "article does not reflect the person I know or the extraordinarily complex issues we face everyday that benefits from Ankhi and the Public Policy team's expertise," Mohan wrote.

Mohan also wrote the company is "confident that the article's claim that political affiliations influence decision making in India is inaccurate and without merit."

Hearing of Facebook executives

Mohan said that "decisions around content escalations are not made unilaterally by just one person".

He insisted there were "robust checks and balances built in to ensure that the policies are implemented as they are intended to be and take into consideration applicable local laws."

"These policies are ever-evolving to take into account the local sensitivities especially in a multicultural society such as India," Mohan said.

The BJP has not commented on the controversy though Raja Singh told one Indian newspaper his Facebook account had been hacked.

Opposition Congress party politicians have accused the company of favouring the BJP, and Facebook executives have been ordered to appear before an Indian parliamentary information technology committee on September 2.

READ MORE: Life of Muslims in 'Modi-fied' India

Facebook employees express frustration 

An open letter written to Facebook's leadership by 11 employees on one internal platform, and seen by Reuters, demands company leaders acknowledge and denounce "anti-Muslim bigotry" and ensure more policy consistency.

The letter also demanded that Facebook's "policy team in India (and elsewhere) includes diverse representation."

"It is hard not to feel frustrated and saddened by the incidents reported ... We know we're not alone in this. Employees across the company are expressing a similar sentiment," said the letter. 

"The Muslim community at Facebook would like to hear from Facebook leadership on our asks."

Facebook has been under fire in recent years for its lax approach to fake news content, state-backed disinformation campaigns, and violent content spread via its platforms.

READ MORE: Violent clashes over derogatory Facebook post turn deadly in India

Source: TRTWorld and agencies