Hundreds of Americans of different faiths, professions and backgrounds gathered in Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and Meta’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Saturday and Sunday to protest Facebook “allowing hate speech to be freely posted in India, resulting in persecution” of minorities.
Carrying posters and placards reading, ‘FACEBOOK ENABLES RACISM’, ‘FACEBOOK ENABLES FASCISM’,
‘FACEBOOK PROMOTES ISLAMOPHOBIA’ and ‘FACEBOOK HATE SPEECH RULES HELP BJP IN INDIA’, the participants demanded an immediate end to the “complicity” of the Mark Zuckerberg-owned company “in extreme Hindu right-wing incitement to violence”.
During the protests, organised by India Genocide Watch, speakers alleged that Facebook—which has, at least, 340 million accounts and 400 million WhatsApp users in India—speakers alleged that the tech titan has a role in spreading Islamophobia and its algorithms are biased against religious minorities.
A leaked internal Facebook document titled ‘Adversarial Harmful Networks—India Case Study’ cited in one of
of the eight complaints filed by Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in September revealed that pages associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) promoted “fearmongering and anti-Muslim narratives”, The Telegraph reported in October.
“RSS (Indian nationalist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) Users, Groups, and Pages promote fearmongering, anti-Muslim narratives targeted pro-Hindu populations with V&I (violent and incendiary) intent…. There were a number of dehumanizing posts comparing Muslims to ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs’ and misinformation (claiming that men have been urged to rape their female family members). Our lack of Hindi and Bengali classifiers means much of this (anti-Muslim) content is never flagged or actioned….” an excerpt from the complaint read.
“We demand that Facebook designate as dangerous organisations Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, its Nazi-inspired ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamasevak Sangh and their armed affiliates, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal,” Rasheed Ahmed, executive director, Indian American Muslim Council, said.
At Menlo Park, Javid Ali of Bay Muslims for Human Rights, said that “Facebook deliberately and knowingly refused to block Islamophobic hate enabling fascist violence against India’s Muslims”, alleging that the social media giant “has blood on its hands.”
“The algorithms used in Facebook are biased against the religious minorities and the socially oppressed. We condemn Facebook for failing to fix these proven issues,” Karthic of Ambedkar King Study Circle said.
Braving the rain to march to Facebook’s office in Seattle, the protesters chanted, “Facebook Hatebook”. Kshama Sawant, member, Seattle City Council, said, “Companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon are participants... in the state forces of bigotry, hate, religions and caste oppressions.” Hira Singh Bhullar of Khalsa Gurmat Center, a Sikh NGO, said, “This hate is coming from politicians promoting hate. Shame on Facebook.” Activist Said Javed Sikander said that “the hatred is destroying the fabric of Indian society”.
Claiming that things “could have been different” in India had Facebook “taken stringent action on fake accounts”, protester Elyas Mohammed said in Charlotte, “Facebook provided a platform for the right-wing hatemongering elements to flourish.”
Protester Shakeib Mashhood said in Houston, “Facebook is becoming a tool to spread hate In India, which is very outrageous. More concerning is that Facebook knew that this was happening but it did not take any action. They did not block it.” In Chicago, Syed Shoaib Qadri said, “We want accountability from Facebook for its criminal behaviour.”
Protester Musaddique Thange alleged in San Diego that Facebook is “enabling inflammatory and violent rhetoric against Muslims in India and around the world. Facebook should designate RSS, Bajrang Dal and all its affiliates as dangerous and terrorist organisations”.
Zameer Khan, who organised the Atlanta protest, said that “public protests and demonstrations are needed to begin to galvanise the American people and politicians especially into taking action against Facebook for poor management of its social media platform”.