Facebook’s Hinduphobia: Meta’s adversarial threat report says de-platformed hundreds of pro-Hindu accounts in India

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Meta in a report said that it has taken down a brigading network of about 300 accounts on Facebook and Instagram in India that worked together to mass-harass people, including activists, comedians, actors and other influencers

Social media apps. Representational Image. Pixabay

New Delhi: Meta, the owning company of such social media platforms as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, released its ‘Adversarial Threat Report’ for the second quarter of 2022 on Thursday and with its also unveiled its anti-Hindu bias once again.

Tom-tomming its crackdown on ‘brigading’ or “adversarial networks that engaging in “repetitive behaviour…sending direct messages to their targets, or mass-commenting on their posts…intended to overwhelm, harass or silence the target”, Meta said it de-platformed several hundred pro-Hindu accounts in India.

“In Q2 of 2022, we took down a brigading network of about 300 accounts on Facebook and Instagram in India that worked together to mass-harass people, including activists, comedians, actors and other influencers,” the Meta report said on page 12.

This network, the Meta report observed, was active across the internet—Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Telegram.

“On our apps, the individuals behind this activity relied on a combination of authentic and duplicate accounts — many of which were disabled for violating our rules against hate speech and harassment by our scaled, automated systems. These accounts would call on others to harass people who posted content that this group deemed offensive to Hindus,” the report said on the abovementioned page.

“The members of this network would then post high volumes of negative comments under the targets’ posts. In response, some people would hide or delete their posts leading to celebratory comments claiming a ‘successful raid’,” the report added.

In stark contrast, the report mentioned that Meta removed some 2,800 accounts, Groups and Pages in Indonesia that worked together to target the Wahabi Muslim community as they “falsely report people for various violations, including hate speech, impersonation, terrorism and bullying, in an attempt to have them and their posts wrongfully removed from Facebook.” This is page 11 of the report.

Calling into question the arbitrariness and opacity of the de-platforming mechanism of Facebook etc, former CEO of Prasar Bharati Shashi Shekhar Vampati tweeted: “Such mass scale de-platforming of accounts by @facebook in India raises several questions on the power of platforms and the regulatory checks on the same.”

“A platforms powers to remove or de-platform must be regulated with checks and accountability. Platforms are now opaque and we have no idea what’s happening. More so, this is mass de-platforming. There are several questions that arise: Are there legitimate accounts too that have been de-platformed? What is the recourse or grievance-redressal mechanism?” Vempati told Firstpost.

“A deeper scrutiny is needed when it comes to these platforms editorialising content. How far is this acceptable? They hide behind the safe harbour of being intermediaries while pushing agenda,” Vempati added.

This nothing new, point out IT and social media honchos in India; it, rather, betrays the mindset of these platforms. “The bigger question is: are they above the law of the land? Do they have the right to editorialise? What if their editorialising is in contravention to the laws of India? FB is becoming a resort of Hinduphobia,” said a top IT expert, who did not want to be named.

Meanwhile, a recent report by Members of the Network Contagion Lab at Rutgers University-New Brunswick (NC Lab), cited evidence of a sharp spike in hate speech directed toward the Hindu community across social media platforms.

“Our analysis demonstrates that there is an alarming, recent rise in the use of key terms— particularly, anti-Hindu slurs and slogans— that both connote and disseminate Hinduphobia on popular social media platforms. Accompanying this increase is the proliferation of anti-Hindu genocidal memes in Islamist, white nationalist, and other extremist sub-networks online,” the report said.

In July the signal on the Hinduphobic code words and memes reached record highs that could inflame a spill out to real world violence, especially in light of escalating religious tensions in India and the recent beheading of an Indian shopkeeper. Social media platforms largely are unaware of the code words, key images, and structured nature of this hatred even as it is surging,” Rutgers said.

The Rutgers website quoted John J. Farmer Jr., director of both the Miller Center and the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University–New Brunswick as having said: “There is, unfortunately, nothing new to the bigotry and violence faced by the Hindu population. What is new is the social media context in which hate messages are being shared. Our prior work has shown a correlation between the intensity of hate messaging over social media and the eruption of real-world acts of violence.”

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