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Sushma Swaraj’s vigilance helps Indian diaspora receive prompt rescue

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New Delhi: When overseas Indians are in trouble, they contact India’s External Affairs Ministry Sushma Swaraj on mobile or the net for urgent rescue.

by Kul Bushan

Every night, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj checks her Twitter and other social media accounts for about an hour. That is how she has proved to be an action oriented minister to solve urgent problems of the Indian diaspora members in distress.

The latest is the homecoming of a young Sikh woman and her eight-year-old daughter stuck in a refugee camp in Germany after her in-laws duped her into going abroad. The woman made a video plea for urgent help on 2 February and Sushma Swaraj sprung into instant action so she landed in Delhi within 48 hours.

This is the latest rescue mission in a long list of emergency evacuations, both individual and en masse. During a recent speech, the minister said that she gets regular appeals for help from overseas Indians including women in the Gulf. Many women workers have their passports impounded by their employers and are mistreated. The minister’s first response is to inform the nearest Indian mission to fly her to India after an emergency certificate is issued by the mission in lieu of a passport to enable travel to India.

She keeps in touch with the distressed Indians on social media giving information on the progress of the rescue operation and with their family in India. During this, she gets details, starting with the mobile number of ‘the agent’ who sent the worker abroad. In most cases, these are fly-by-night operators not registered with the government. So she informs the state government about this ‘agent’ to check the registration. If the agent is not registered, then legal action is started.

When a person pleads for urgent help, the Minister takes up the matter with the nearest mission to gear into action. A deadline is set and if the matter is not resolved, the complaint moves to a higher level with colour coding until it becomes red. With social media, mobile app and a site, the ministry responds to distress pleas from anywhere and at all times.

Another site, www.emigrate.gov.in  provides full information to workers who want to emigrate.

Soon after Prime Minister Modi took office in May 2014, the first rescue mission for around 100,000 Indians started from Ukraine in June 2014. Another 7,500 were rescued from Iraq within a few days. The mission in Yemen for 7,500 Indians and 2,000 others was more dramatic and dangerous.

The big problem is when overseas Indians do not follow advisories from the Indian government to leave their countries of residence in turmoil. Even after 3,500 had been brought back, Indians in Libya ignored repeated advisories and a few landed in dire straits.

Overseas Indians can count on prompt and effective help from India when in dire straits.

This article was first published at mauritiustimes.com

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How To Deal With Online Hate Speech: A Detailed Guide By Facebook

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn't gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

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Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Facebook says it is getting better at proactively removing hate speech and changing the incentives that result in the most sensational and provocative content becoming the most popular on the site.

The company has done so, it says, by ramping up its operations so that computers can review and make quick decisions on large amounts of content with thousands of reviewers making more nuanced decisions.

In the future, if a person disagrees with Facebook’s decision, he or she will be able to appeal to an independent review board.

Facebook “shouldn’t be making so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a call with reporters Thursday.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at a Facebook developers conference in San Jose, California. VOA

But as Zuckerberg detailed what the company has accomplished in recent months to crack down on spam, hate speech and violent content, he also acknowledged that Facebook has far to go.

“There are issues you never fix,” he said. “There’s going to be ongoing content issues.”

Company’s actions

In the call, Zuckerberg addressed a recent story in The New York Times that detailed how the company fought back during some of its biggest controversies over the past two years, such as the revelation of how the network was used by Russian operatives in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Times story suggested that company executives first dismissed early concerns about foreign operatives, then tried to deflect public attention away from Facebook once the news came out.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

Zuckerberg said the firm made mistakes and was slow to understand the enormity of the issues it faced. “But to suggest that we didn’t want to know is simply untrue,” he said.

Zuckerberg also said he didn’t know the firm had hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm that spread negative information about Facebook competitors as the social networking firm was in the midst of one scandal after another. Facebook severed its relationship with the firm.

“It may be normal in Washington, but it’s not the kind of thing I want Facebook associated with, which is why we won’t be doing it,” Zuckerberg said.

The firm posted a rebuttal to the Times story.

Content removed

Facebook said it is getting better at proactively finding and removing contentsuch as spam, violent posts and hate speech. The company said it removed or took other action on 15.4 million pieces of violent content between June and September of this year, about double what it removed in the prior three months.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

But Zuckerberg and other executives said Facebook still has more work to do in places such as Myanmar. In the third quarter, the firm said it proactively identified 63 percent of the hate speech it removed, up from 13 percent in the last quarter of 2017. At least 100 Burmese language experts are reviewing content, the firm said.

One issue that continues to dog Facebook is that some of the most popular content is also the most sensational and provocative. Facebook said it now penalizes what it calls “borderline content” so it gets less distribution and engagement.

“By fixing this incentive problem in our services, we believe it’ll create a virtuous cycle: by reducing sensationalism of all forms, we’ll create a healthier, less-polarized discourse where more people feel safe participating,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post.

Also Read: Facebook to Establish an Independent Body to Moderate Content

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn’t gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

“We have a man-made, for-profit, simultaneous communication space, marketplace and battle space and that it is, as a result, designed not to reward veracity or morality but virality,” said Peter W. Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America, a nonpartisan think tank, at an event Thursday in Washington, D.C. (VOA)