India ruling party denies preferential treatment by Facebook

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2015, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, hugs Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi at Facebook in Menlo Park, Calif. Members of India's governing party on Monday rejected allegations that Facebook had chosen to turn a blind eye to partisan hate speech on its platform to protect its growing business interests in India. As usage has spread across India, Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp have become fierce battlegrounds for Indias political parties, but spokesmen for Prime Minister Narendra Modis Bharatiya Janata Party denied a newspaper report that asserted Facebook officials chose not to take action against party members whose posts violated rules against hate speech. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2015, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, hugs Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi at Facebook in Menlo Park, Calif. Members of India's governing party on Monday rejected allegations that Facebook had chosen to turn a blind eye to partisan hate speech on its platform to protect its growing business interests in India. As usage has spread across India, Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp have become fierce battlegrounds for Indias political parties, but spokesmen for Prime Minister Narendra Modis Bharatiya Janata Party denied a newspaper report that asserted Facebook officials chose not to take action against party members whose posts violated rules against hate speech. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW DELHI – Members of India's governing party on Monday rejected allegations that Facebook had chosen to turn a blind eye to partisan hate speech on its platform to protect its growing business interests in India.

As usage has spread across India, Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp have become fierce battlegrounds for India’s political parties, but spokesmen for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party denied a newspaper report that asserted Facebook officials chose not to take action against party members whose posts violated rules against hate speech.

The party members instead accused Facebook of censoring pro-India content.

Opposition Congress party lawmaker Shashi Tharoor said the information technology committee he heads in Parliament will take up the findings of the Aug. 14 report in The Wall Street Journal. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP of “controlling” Facebook and demanded a joint probe by Parliament's two houses.

The Wall Street Journal report said Facebook India's head of public policy, Anhki Das, “opposed applying hate-speech rules” to at least four individuals and groups linked with the BJP even though they were “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence.”

Tejasvi Surya, a BJP lawmaker and a member of the parliamentary committee on IT, rejected the idea that Facebook was showing favoritism to the governing party, and instead charged it was “censoring pro-India and pro-Hindu voices.”

“There are millions of posts mocking Hindu gods and abusing right-of-center leaders. But Facebook’s advanced algorithms and community standards fail to catch them. However, unsuspecting common people running pro-right-of-center pages are suspended with no right to appeal,” fellow BJP lawmaker Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore wrote in an op-ed in the Indian Express newspaper.

Facebook said in a statement Monday that it prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence and enforces these rules globally “without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation.”