Monday January 21, 2019
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United in diversity, divided by hate speech


New Delhi: The Centre’s justification before the Supreme Court for retaining the penal provision for hate speeches and backing the prosecution of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy for instigating animosity between Hindus and Muslims will definitely be met with some raised eyebrows. At a time when ‘intolerance’ has become the key word among politicians and leaders, the Centre’s justification aims at enforcing an embargo on those who rake up controversies through their speeches.

Hate speeches are not rare in India but if the apex court delivers a ruling favouring a penal provision, leaders like Swami, Akbaruddin Owaisi, Varun Gandhi would definitely have a food for thought before instigating people and fuelling communal tensions.

India has witnessed many violent riots fuelled by venomous speeches. However, even as common people kill and hurt each other, the leaders, who are the main culprits, do not pay a price for the backlash. When surrounded by controversy, they evade arrest citing ‘right of expression’ and that they were ‘misquoted’.

But does the ‘right of expression’ permit venomous speeches, hurting religious sentiments of communities or promote enmity?

According to Home Affairs Ministry, Indian citizens cannot spread hatred towards any community or class in the name of freedom of speech and expression as it would result in public disorder and riots. It stated that penal provisions are meant to preserve unity of the country and to prevent acrimonious forces from disrupting the harmony.

Owaisi won ‘accolades’ for his ‘objectionable’ speeches. Owaisi claimed that “the 25 crore Muslims will take care of the 100 crore Hindus if only the police was removed for 15 minutes”.

He was slapped with numerous charges including “attempting to wage war” against the Government of India. Via his fiery speeches he not only infuriated the Hindu community but his “malicious acts” outraged the religious feelings and pushed the nation towards unrest. However, his fan-following testifies that Indians are being spoon fed with the potion of intolerance by the leaders.

On the other hand, we have the Thakerays from Maharashtra who constantly harp on India being a Hindu majority nation and Muslims should migrate to Pakistan.

They too have delivered provocative speeches against  Muslims migrants from Assam and Bihar. Activists and cadres of extremist outfits like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) and Shiv Sena have a history of making provocative speeches and issuing anti-Muslim statements and threats.

Amid chants of Jai Shri Ram, the young face of BJP and the scion of Nehru-Gandhi, Varun Gandhi, in a speech at Pilibhit, threatened to cut hands and sever heads of Muslims. However, he did not have a justification behind his statement which many considered to be a publicity gimmick.

Human beings are not cruel or violent by nature but it is the vitriol that awakens the dark side of human nature and encourages them to take up arms against his countrymen. The ‘hate speeches’ blindfold the cadres and compel them to act mechanically. While the politicians try to get publicity through these speeches, it is the common people who get sacrificed at the altar of the ‘hate speeches’.

(Picture Courtesy:

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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.

Facebook, data,photos
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)