Attention Facebook users! Offensive posts on Kashmir, deities and Tricolour can now land you in trouble

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New Delhi | Published: January 14, 2019 10:49:43 AM

Moderators are directed to look “Azad Kashmir, Free Kashmir, Kashmir belongs to Pakistan… Look for maps invading territories, people protesting, etc”.

Source: Reuters

Facebook is flagging content from the country which include posts defaming deities, depictions of the Indian Tricolour on any clothing below the waist and Azad Kashmir.

Facebook has a mechanism set in place in which its content reviewers – including 15,000 full-time and contracted workers – regularly screen posts which are reported by users or automatically chosen by its algorithmic system.

These workers flag “locally illegal” content posts for India for further review, but sans the ‘knowledge of users or any input from local law enforcement agencies.’

This comes after the Indian government had requested the social media giant to screen content which it feels affected the “sovereignty and integrity of India”. The Indian government’s Information Technology ministry in December 2018 had posed new rules to the social media firms which compelled them to ‘actively regulate content’ in the country, a report by Reuters said.

Facebook has said publicly and to the press, that as per its policy, any speech attacking a religion or a belief is not hate speech, even in India.

Although Facebook has reportedly said that it does not block use the IP-blocking content processes unless there is a legal requirement, the above India-specific guidelines show that the Facebook’s moderators still flag such content for further review.

One of the slides in the Facebook document obtained by the Indian Express asks: “What is locally illegal content?” and the next slide follows with a diagram saying: “Content doesn’t violate Facebook policy”, “Respecting local laws when the government actively pursues enforcement”, and “Facebook risks getting blocked in a country, or it’s a legal risk”.

Facebook has not officially commented on this and neither is there any clarity on whether similar procedures are followed in other countries.

In the “Operational Guidelines” section, the document shows examples of potential content to flag which include maps of Kashmir and Aksai Chain, posts comparing deities divisively or depicting Muhammad, and images with show replacing the wheel on the Tricolour with Gandhi.

Other posts to be flagged are listed under the ‘national border’ section, which include content that are “supportive” of a separate Kashmir or Pakistan’s claim to Saichen and Kashmir, China’s claim to Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, or Tripura.

Moderators are directed to look “Azad Kashmir, Free Kashmir, Kashmir belongs to Pakistan… Look for maps invading territories, people protesting, etc”.

A Facebook report had said that the flagged content rose 24% in Q4 2017 as they improved upon their detection technology and other processes to search and flag more content before the users even reported it.

Another report says that most of the Facebook content that the Indian government wanted to take down were classified as ‘anti-religion’ and ‘anti-state’ posts.

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It has been a while since global social media and technology giants are fighting governments around the world which hold them accountable for what their users post on their platforms. Last year, WhatsApp had come under fire in India after chain ‘forwards’ about child kidnappers led to mob lynchings in different parts of the country. Facebook too routinely struggles with fake news including doctored videos, unverified news reports and other sensitive content.

Nearly half a billion Indians have internet access; Facebook has 300 million users in India while WhatsApp more than 200 million Indians as its users according to report by the Indian Express. Twitter too boasts of such numbers when it comes to one of the biggest countries in the world.

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