In November 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party asked Facebook to monetise the official page of OpIndia, a Hindu nationalist misinformation website with . Another Hindu nationalist website, the Chaupal, received similar treatment.
In January 2019, two months before the Lok Sabha election, the saffron party flagged 44 pages to Facebook. These pages were run by the political opponents and critics of the BJP – the official FB page of the Bhim Army, “We Hate BJP”, and “The Truth of Gujarat,” a page administered by Alt News founder Pratik Sinha.
These revelations were reported in the today. They are based on emails between Amit Malviya, who heads BJP’s IT cell, and Facebook India’s public policy executives Ankhi Das and Shivnath Thukral.
The report adds that of the 44 pages flagged by the BJP, 14 no longer remain on the platform. Moreover, 17 deleted Hindu nationalist pages were reinstated after a prompt from the governing party.
The Express report said: “All the 17 pages reinstated by Facebook India on BJP’s request currently share content almost exclusively from Postcard News, many in Kannada. None of these pages are directly labeled as connected to a political party.”
The paper reported that OpIndia’s Facebook page has spent nearly Rs 90,000 on political ads between March and June 2019. The website chose not to comment on the story.
Malviya told Express that requests to “shield” pro-BJP pages were made because the administrators believed they were “wrongly targeted”. “There were pages like I Support Narendra Modi and other large pages run by genuine volunteers who were fearful they might get struck down. We have in the past spoken to Facebook and asked them to do the right thing. They barely even respond to us. We were seeking a more transparent and fair system. Clearly, they have thought otherwise,” he told the paper.
A Facebook spokesperson told Express: “There is no term as shielding. We have a process called Cross-Check which is a system for reducing errors in enforcement by ensuring content from some Pages and profiles is given a second layer of review to make sure we’ve applied our policies correctly. It does not prevent enforcement action if a violation of our Community Standards is found.”
In August, the Wall Street Journal that Facebook’s Das had shot down internal appeals to apply hate speech rules to at least four pages or groups linked to the BJP.
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