- Facebook’s safety team determined earlier this year that Bajrang Dal, a religious extremist group in India, was likely a “dangerous organization” that should be banned from the platform under its rules, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
- But, The Journal reported, Facebook became concerned about banning the group after its security team warned that doing so could lead to attacks against Facebook’s staff.
- Facebook’s inconsistency in enforcing its rules in India has also been motivated by fears that backlash from India’s nationalist ruling party could hurt business, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.
- The social media company has increasingly come under fire over its struggle to effectively and consistently police its platform — especially outside of the US, where users have leveraged its platform to facilitate ethnic violence, undermine democratic processes, and crack down on free speech.
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Facebook determined that a religious extremist group in India likely should be banned from the platform for promoting violence, but it has yet to take action because of concerns over its staff’s safety and political repercussions that could hurt its business, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
Bajrang Dal, a militant Hindu nationalist group, has physically assaulted Muslims and Christians, and one of its leaders recently threatened violence against Hindus who attend church on Christmas.
Earlier this year, Facebook’s safety team determined that Bajrang Dal likely was a “dangerous organization” and, per its policies against such groups, should be removed from the platform entirely, according to The Journal.
But Facebook hesitated to enforce those rules after its security team concluded that doing so could hurt its business in India as well as potentially trigger physical attacks against its employees or facilities, The Journal reported.
“We ban individuals or entities after following a careful, rigorous, and multi-disciplinary process. We enforce our Dangerous Organizations and Individuals policy globally without regard to political position or party affiliation,” a Facebook company spokesperson told Business Insider.
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According to the Journal, Facebook refused to say whether it ultimately decided to designate Bajrang Dal as not dangerous.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has faced criticism over how it has – or hasn’t – enforced its rules, even within India or even within India in the past few months.
The Journal reported in August that Facebook refused to apply its hate speech policies to T. Raja Singh, a politician from India’s nationalist ruling BJP party, despite his calls to shoot Muslim immigrants and threats to destroy mosques.
Facebook employees had concluded that, in addition to violating the company’s policies, Singh’s rhetoric in the real world was dangerous enough to merit kicking him off the platform entirely. However, Facebook’s top public policy executive in India overruled them, arguing that the political repercussions could hurt the company’s business (India is its largest and fastest-growing market globally by number of users).
The internal tension over Bajrang Dal reflects the frequent challenges Facebook faces when its profits come into conflict with local governments and laws, rules the company has established for its platform, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s pledges to uphold free speech and democratic processes.
In August, Facebook took the rare step of legal action against Thailand’s government over its demand that the company block users within the country from accessing a group critical of its king, though it’s complying with the government’s request while the case proceeds in court.
But BuzzFeed News reported in August that Facebook ignored or failed to quickly address dozens of incidents of political misinformation and efforts to undermine democracy around the world, particularly in smaller and non-Western countries.
And even as Zuckerberg has defended Facebook’s exemption of President Donald Trump and other politicians from its hate speech and fact-checking policies, human rights activists around the world have slammed the social media giant for refusing to protect the free speech of those not in power.