facebook: Post hate speech controversy, Facebook conducts townhall with Indian employees


BENGALURU/NEW DELHI: Through an internal town hall on Wednesday, social media giant Facebook’s employees in India have apparently been conveyed the message that controversies like the one surrounding the company’s policy on hate speech posts are to be expected given the social media giant’s reach and influence.

Employees familiar with the matter told ET that the leadership team has also conveyed to them that the India business of the tech major was structurally in a very sound place and now the focus should be on monetising opportunities.

Both India managing director Ajit Mohan and public policy director Ankhi Das were present in the town hall, people familiar with the matter said.

“It has been conveyed to us that the company has a huge structural edge and it will keep monetising it, ” a staffer said on condition of anonymity.

In a response to ET’s queries, Facebook said it does not discuss internal company townhalls externally.

Employees familiar with the matter said strict instructions have been issued by Facebook to not speak to people outside.

“Facebook faced a lot of heat in the last elections also. A controversy like this has not happened for the first time,” a staffer told ET.

“If a case and the flak that the company took in the United States couldn’t change them, who cares about another continent. They have conveyed previously that they maintain good relationships with all governments. The company will also go big on virtual reality and voice,” he added.

ET reported in its edition dated August 24 that Facebook’s India employees are hoping to hear from the leadership team on the political controversy surrounding a critical Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report and policy enforcement concerns, during the social media giant’s weekly town hall on Wednesday.

The company’s town hall comes in the wake of the WSJ report on August 14 which alleged Das opposed applying hate speech rules to posts by BJP Telengana MLA T Raja Singh and three other BJP leaders and groups flagged internally for promoting violence.

As per the report, the current and former employees told WSJ that Das’ intervention is part of a broader pattern of favouritism by Facebook towards BJP and what the report termed as ‘Hindu hardliners’.

Following the report, the BJP and Congress have been engaged in a rhetorical war of words over social media conduct and ethics.

The report also stated that in April last year, before voting began in India’s general elections, Facebook announced it had taken down inauthentic pages tied to Pakistan’s military and the Congress party but did not disclose it also removed pages with false news tied to the BJP because Das intervened.

In its edition dated August 26, ET reported that the controversy was unlikely to dent advertising spends on Facebook in India.





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