The former Facebook employee Frances Haugen claimed Facebook took little action to prevent the provocative anti-Muslim narratives from being promoted on their platform in India.

The former product manager on Facebook's civic misinformation team, now its whistleblower Frances Haugen has cited internal company documents to explain how the company has approached the main issues and debates around social media in India over the past seven years.


She has said that “fear-mongering” and “dehumanising” content was being promoted by Facebook accounts associated with Indian nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is seen as the ideological source of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen attends a Senate Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, US, October 5, 2021.
Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen attends a Senate Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, US, October 5, 2021. (Reuters)

Anti-Muslim narratives have targeted pro-Hindu communities with the intent of violence and incitement, Haugen said in the document.


She claimed that no action is taken against most of these contents as the company lacks “Hindi and Bengali classifiers”.    


Classifiers are algorithms that detect hate speech. The absence of them means much of this content is never flagged or actioned. 


Facebook was well aware of those contents being promoted on its platform in India but “political considerations” prevented Facebook from taking real actions, Haugen claimed.

3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020.
3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. (Reuters)

Haugen referred to internal records on hateful and provocative discourse about Muslims in India. 

“There were a number of dehumanising posts comparing Muslims to ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs’ and misinformation claiming the Quran calls for men to rape their female family members,” she quoted a company document as saying.

Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies during a hearing entitled 'Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower' in Washington, October 5, 2021.
Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies during a hearing entitled 'Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower' in Washington, October 5, 2021. (Reuters)

Haugen’s lawyers cite internal company documents to reveal that India is designated as a ‘Tier-0’ country. 

It means that the company will pay more attention to the country during important election cycles. Apart from India, only two other countries are classified as such: the US and Brazil.

Other countries receive no investment in terms of proactive monitoring and specific attention to curb misinformation during their electoral periods.

The Facebook logo on a smartphone in front of a computer, August 12, 2021.
The Facebook logo on a smartphone in front of a computer, August 12, 2021. (AFP)

However, this is not as good news as it seems. Because the US receives 87 percent of the budget to curb misinformation on its platform, while the “rest of the world” receives just 13 percent, according to the document.

India, with over 530 million users, is the largest market in terms of users for Facebook. In contrast, the US has around 200 million users and gets a disproportionate 87 percent of the investment from its resources for the purpose of preventing misinformation. 


Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies during a hearing entitled 'Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower' in Washington, October 5, 2021.
Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies during a hearing entitled 'Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower' in Washington, October 5, 2021. (AFP)

Frances Haugen reportedly bases her complaints on thousands of documents that she secretly copied before leaving Facebook in May. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies