Tech

On BJP's Request, Facebook Pulled Down 14 of 44 Flagged Pages, Reinstated 17 Deleted Pages

Last year in November, the BJP had asked Facebook India to “monetise” or allow two right-wing news websites – The Chaupal and OpIndia – to receive ad revenue for their content. 

New Delhi: The BJP had flagged a list of 44 pages opposed to the party to Facebook India ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, claiming they were “in violation of expected standards” and carried posts “not in line with facts”.

Of the 44 pages, 14 are no longer on Facebook’s platform, according to a report in the Indian Express.

The pages that have been taken down by Facebook include pages in support of journalists Ravish Kumar and Vinod Dua while those that had been flagged but continue to be on the platform include the official account of the Bhim Army, satire site “We Hate BJP”, unofficial Congress-supporting pages and a page called “The Truth of Gujarat”.

Additionally, 17 deleted pages that the BJP had asked Facebook India to reinstate are all back on the platform. Last year in November, the BJP had asked Facebook India to reinstate 17 deleted pages and “monetise” or allow two right-wing news websites – The Chaupal and OpIndia – to receive ad revenue for their content.

Facebook told the BJP IT Cell head Amit Malviya that the pages had been taken down “erroneously”.

Vikas Pandey, the founder of The Chaupal, told the Indian Express that his site has not been allowed monetisation after Facebook revoked its monetisation in March 2019.

None of the 17 pages reinstated by Facebook India at the behest of the BJP are directly labelled as being affiliated to any political party. The pages also share content almost exclusively from Postcard News and one of the pages took the name of Postcard News founder Mahesh V. Hegde, who was arrested in Bangalore in 2018 on charges of promoting communal enmity by posting “fake news”.

Watch | ‘Senior Facebook Execs Associated Themselves With Modi Even Before BJP’s Victory in 2014’

The police then conducted an investigation to determine whether Hegde had the support of BJP leaders. He was also represented in court by BJP leader and MP Tejasvi Surya. Facebook took down Postcard News official page in July 2018.

These requests for reinstating the pages came through emails between Malviya and Facebook India public policy executives Ankhi Das and Shivnath Thukral.

In emails from February 2019, Malviya referred to a meeting where he had discussed “shielding” certain BJP-leaning pages with Facebook India. Malviya said that Thukral had suggested the idea in a meeting in January 2019 to address pages that the BJP felt had been “wrongly targeted”.

Malviya said: “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.”

Malviya had sent a reminder of the pages to be “shielded” in November, listing eight pages which included some of the biggest BJP supporting pages on Facebook.

In response to queries, a Facebook spokesperson said, “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.”

Upon being asked if public policy had an input on content decisions, the spokesperson said public policy has an input only if the designated content policy team decides to pull in other teams.

Also read: Backstory: How Facebook and BJP Ring-Fenced India

Malviya had sent a reminder of the pages to be “shielded” in November, listing eight pages which included some of the biggest BJP supporting pages on Facebook.

Facebook India has come under increasing scrutiny since The Wall Street Journal reported on August 14 that Facebook India opposed applying its hate speech rules to the BJP’s T. Raja Singh at the behest of Ankhi Das, who is Facebook’s top public policy executive in India.