Facebook Whistleblowers Frances Haugen And Sophie Zhang Slam Unregulated Hate In India
Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang, former Facebook employees-turned-whistleblowers, slammed Facebook’s parent company Meta for failing to take accountability for spreading genocidal hate speech in India in its human rights assessment report (HRIA) published earlier this month. They were speaking at a Congressional Briefing titled “Hate Speech On Facebook India: Meta Suppresses Fact-finding Report,” organized by 18 human rights organizations.
Zhang had last year exposed India as one of several countries whose governments used Facebook to purposefully spread misinformation. She had revealed that Facebook often caved in to the Indian government’s diktat rather than upholding uniform community guidelines.
“I’ve been told anecdotally by other Facebook employees, current and former, that Facebook faces the most political interference in India of all countries, that the company is most deferential to government politicians in India… because of the increased willingness of the country to threaten action against Facebook,” said Zhang.
“If Facebook is biased towards those in power, that means that those in government have an advantage,” she added. “And the only people who want to change the situation are those not in power who have no ability to change it.”
“[Facebook’s] algorithms are intrinsically majoritarian,” said Haugen, who made international headlines in 2021 after exposing Facebook’s promotion of hateful content for profit. “The content that’s going to get the better reaction from the majority is going to get more distribution.”
Researchers, activists, and journalists have for years been highlighting the circulation of anti-Muslim hate speech on Facebook India and its platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp. These include videos of mob lynchings and mob violence, misinformation about Muslims, and calls for Muslims to be driven out of India or killed.
Human Rights Defenders Call Upon European Union To Address India’s Targeting Against Activists
A coalition of human rights organizations released a joint statement directed to the European Union in wake of the 10th EU-India human rights dialogue, calling on the EU to take concrete action against India’s targeting of government critics, journalists, and human rights defenders.
“Indian rights defenders need immediate support and an end to systematic attacks, threats and arbitrary arrests… The targeting of defenders is well-known, and has a direct impact on their safety, their families, and the communities they represent,” said the statement, adding that “the joint EU-India press release fails to address any of these cases, or to acknowledge the general worsening of the human rights situation in India.”
“Vague commitments on human rights and safeguarding freedoms and defenders no longer suffice. The scale of the violence and punishment for the peaceful defence of human rights in India requires a proportionate and public response and a demand for accountability for continued violations,” the statement said.
“In the face of the blatant disregard for national standards and international commitments, particularly important in light of India’s global presence and membership to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the EU must take a public stand on patterns of reprisals and individual cases.”
The statement was co-signed by Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Front Line Defenders, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.
Muslim On Death Row On Spurious Evidence Seeks Reinvestigation Into His Case In Letter To Federal Minister
Ehtesham Siddiqui, a Muslim man who was placed on death row after being convicted for allegedly playing a role in the horrific 2006 Mumbai train bombings, has sought a reinvestigation into the case after claiming his innocence in a letter to India’s union minister.
After the bombings, which killed 188 people and injured over 800 others, a number of Muslim men were arrested, tried, and placed on death row, including Siddiqui. However, Siddiqui has stated that he was “sentenced to death on the basis of false and fabricated evidence.”
In support of his plea, Siddiqui cited confessional statements of other convicted individuals as well as a report submitted by India’s intelligence bureau recommending reinvestigation in the Mumbai serial blasts case.
188 people were killed and over 800 were injured in the bombings.
BJP Lawmakers Harass Opposition Leader Sonia Gandhi; Opposition Members Protest Modi’s Misuse Of Investigation Agencies
The Indian government is rife with internal tension after senior opposition Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi was encircled by a group of male and female BJP leaders in the parliament building in a way that has been described as ‘heckling’, ‘intimidation’ and ‘verbal assault’ by other opposition leaders.
Gandhi was swarmed by BJP members who were enraged over a derogatory comment made by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury against President Droupadi Murmu, a BJP member who is from the marginalized Adivasi community.
“The way the BJP was screaming was like a pack of hyenas, I have never seen anything like it. We were trying to take [Sonia Gandhi] out but she was saying, I am not afraid,” said parliamentarian Mahua Moitra.
“Today we saw a very shameful behaviour towards our leader Sonia Gandhi inside Lok Sabha. Objectionable slogans were raised against her… BJP MPs behaved in a very ill-mannered way,” tweeted Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi tweeted.
Other Congress members were arrested after staging a protest in Delhi’s historic Vijay Chowk square, decrying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s misuse of investigative agencies to target his critics and political opponents.
“Today also our MPs have been detained. This is a murder of democracy,” said Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh.