Wednesday, October 27, 2021

With news of Indian and Russian influence, Twitter and Facebook steps up their game

India has become one of Facebook’s fastest growing markets and it has made several top executive decisions that have brought it into national focus over the past year.

Two of them were that the social media giant “lost” user confidence and removed Google’s ‘India’ category from its search engine in the country.

That came after a radio host ranted about how Facebook has enslaved Indians with false news, forcing people to click through and buy its adverts. He also linked Facebook with extremist groups and launched an independent Facebook page, ‘Pruthvi’ (True) India.

Responding to the uproar, Facebook suspended some accounts of the radio host and some schools and government institutions suspended their partnerships with Facebook.

Both controversies came at a time when users have asked where is the stand of Facebook against racist and other discriminatory content.

Eventually, then CEO Mark Zuckerberg came out with a video apology, which he called “not acceptable.”

Three months later, another Facebook executive, Monika Bickert, tried to clarify the company’s stance on how it tackles hate speech, claiming it is working on a software tool that can eliminate all abusive content more quickly.

The idea of using AI to remove objectionable content will be rolled out in September 2019.

The company has also found some middle ground.

It might have halted its sales with a government agency that was doing free advertising on its platform and banned YouTube from Indian platforms in response to a gang-rape video from a concert the video-sharing platform published last year.

The 2016 compilation which included images of Indian gang rape victims and a voice-over featuring reality TV star Kidambi Srikanth outraged Twitteratis, who started to campaign against the video on their Twitter pages and spark debates on the social media platform.

Rape victims, activists and observers expressed frustration that Facebook can publish anything it wants, and they say the video was sensationalised.

In 2017, a video for HBO documentary Real Sport, which opened with a shot of Gang of Four members taunting a rape victim in Delhi’s Ritu Vihar slum, was uploaded on YouTube in January 2018.

All four members of the gang have been sentenced to death in court, but were never brought to trial for rape.

Facebook said that it promptly removed the video on 12 January 2018, and also punished the users who created and uploaded it.

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