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Hate Speech on FB is BJP’s weapon of choice in Assam: Report

While the Assamese language that has been used potently to spew hate targeting the state’s Muslim minority, leaving them vulnerable to targeted violence; Facebook has been, so far, unresponsive

Teesta Setalvad 08 Nov 2019
assam NRC
Image courtesy: https://www.dnaindia.com/

Elected representative or party functionary, the supremacist BJP has found a potent technique to garner support, keep the hate pot boiling, polarise the polity and electorate and ‘govern.’ Assam and Bengal are especial targets with the controversial NRC and proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) the occasion to hate-let against marginalised religious minorities. A member of the Assam state legislature from the ruling BJP, Shiladitya Dev, published a post, shared over 800 times, claiming those who rape “our mothers and sisters” must be “Bangladeshi Muslims”. Facebook took down his post after it was flagged by an international organisationfor breaching its Community Standards. Dev is followed by 22, 190 persons on Facebook. The text and messaging from Dev’s FB account that went unchallenged until it was pulled up said, “Protecting “Indian” women from “rape-obsessed foreigners” was a particular theme running through several posts.” So far, the ruling BJP has not censored Dev nor taken any punitive action against him. Dev has in the past derided the Supreme Court of India and made inciteful speeches that arguably could trigger violence against the minorities.

There is another such serial offender. Jiten Dutta, a member of the banned group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), has called for actions against 16“foreigners” on Facebook since 2017. Facebook took down at least 7 of his profiles under its “Dangerous Individuals” policy after the same organisation, Avaaz flagged them starting in June. It also took down 174 fan pages which collectively had over 12,900 followers. Facebook refuses to publicly announce Dutta’s designation as a ‘Dangerous individual’ on its platform, while he keeps setting up new profiles. Avaaz has recently published a report, Megaphone for Hate – Disinformation and Hate Speech on Facebook during Assam’s Citizenship Count. The report may be read here.

 

The report finds that hate speech targeted at minorities in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam is spreading almost unabated through Facebook at the same time as the Indian government is stripping nearly 2 million people there of citizenship. Posts targeting religious and ethnic minorities in Assam have been seen more than 5.4 million times, according to the global online advocacy group Avaaz, calling into question the success of the approach taken by Facebook since it was used to spread hate speech during the 2017 Rohingya genocide, according to the Time Magazine..

In August this year, the government published its final list of citizens of Assam, leaving 1.9 million people off. The entire process of updating the NRC, begun through a hard-earned consensus in the state deteriorated after the ruling BJP at the state and centre overtly politicised the issue making it ‘target driven.’ Alaphia Zoyab, a senior campaigner at Avaaz who led the team that wrote the report has expressed concerns about the response from Facebook. Speaking to us she said, “They need to heed the warnings now and not wait till violence actually breaks out like it happened during the Rohingya crisis.”

The situation in Assam has been called a serious humanitarian crisis with the United Nations(UN) cautioning the Indian government, repeatedly. It has also drawn comparisons to the Buddhist extremist campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar which peaked in 2017, forcing more than 700,000 to flee their homes. Under NDA II rule, with Hindu supremacists firmly in the saddle, minorities have faced a surge in attacks. In Assam, some 1.9 million people, many believed to be from the Bengali-speaking minority, are threatened with statelessness as a result of government measures aimed at removing “infiltrators” from the country. While linguistic and ethnic minorities as much as religious ones have been excluded from the final NRC, it is Bengali Muslims in particularwho evidently seem to be the targets of hate speech on Facebook. Avaaz’s report found posts on the site calling them “parasites,” “rats” and “rapists,” and calling for them to be exterminated.

Facebook was seriously in the dock after the targeted violence against Rohingyas, termed a  genocide by the UN. Facebook was criticized for not employing any Burmese-speakers able to detect and remove hate speech. Facebookadmitted as much in 2018 it had not “done enough” to prevent the genocide, and had since “invested heavily in people, technology and partners to address the abuse of Facebook in Myanmar.”

Now this Avaaz report, which focuses on hate speech in the Assamese language, pulls up Facebook’s operational systems: is there anything really in place to detect hate speech in languages other than English? “Facebook is relying too heavily on artificial intelligence to detect hate speech,” Zoyab says “Our research shows that reliance is based on a false premise, because it assumes people are flagging hate-speech, which then teaches its artificial intelligence systems. That’s not happening.”

When contacted by the US-based Time magazine, Facebook did not immediately respond to questions inquiring how many Assamese speakers it employs as part of its 15,000-strong team of content moderators.

What does the Avaaz report say?

In its report,Avaaz said it reported 213 of the “clearest examples of hate speech” to Facebook, but said that the site had removed only 96 of them for breaching its community standards. The report details one case where one individual inciting hatred against Bengali Muslims had his page removed by Facebook seven times, only to set up new accounts each time and continue posting.

Key Findings

Inter-ethnic hate speech targeting minorities in Assam has been shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook during the NRC process. Despite repeated calls from Avaaz to Facebook to proactively enforce with human content moderators it’s Community Standards on hate speech in Assamese, Bengali and Hindi with a team that understands the issues specific to Assam, Facebook has not yet committed to doing so.

The 213 examples that Avaaz flagged as hate speech to Facebook were shared over 99,650 times. Facebook has taken down 96 of the posts, pages and comments we reported to them. These were at least viewed 5.4 million times.

The label “Bangladeshi Muslim” has become a charged term of abuse on Facebook, reflecting assumptions of “foreign-ness” of Bengali Muslims who are described as “criminals,” “rapists,” and “terrorists”, and also depicted as subhuman -- “mosquitoes,” “pigs,” and “dogs.”

Avaaz found striking similarities between the dehumanising language used to describe minorities in Assam and hate speech directed at the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

Many regional and national news outlets amplify inflammatory or hate speech of prominent individuals and politicians by directly quoting it in the headlines of the outlets’ Facebook posts.

“Troll Assamese Media”, a page with 15,828 followers was spreading a high volume of hate speech through memes and other images. After Avaaz flagged it to Facebook, it took down the page.

Inter-ethnic hate speech targeting minorities in Assam has been shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook during the NRC process.

Despite repeated calls from Avaaz to Facebook to proactively enforce with human content moderators it’s Community Standards on hate speech in Assamese, Bengali and Hindi with a team that understands the issues specific to Assam, Facebook has not yet committed to doing so. The 213 examples that Avaaz flagged as hate speech to Facebook were shared over 99,650 times.

Facebook has taken down 96 of the posts, pages and comments we reported to them. These were at least viewed 5.4 million times. The label “Bangladeshi Muslim” has become a charged term of abuse on Facebook, reflecting assumptions of “foreign-ness” of Bengali Muslims who are described as “criminals,” “rapists,” and “terrorists”, and also depicted as subhuman -- “mosquitoes,” “pigs,” and “dogs.”

Avaaz found striking similarities between the dehumanising language used to describe minorities in Assam and hate speech directed at the Rohingya community in Myanmar. Many regional and national news outlets amplify inflammatory or hate speech of prominent individuals and politicians by directly quoting it in the headlines of the outlets’ Facebook posts.

Protecting “Indian” women from “rape-obsessed foreigners” was a particular theme running through several posts. A member of the Assam state legislature, Shiladitya Dev, published a post, shared over 800 times, claiming those who rape “our mothers and sisters” must be “Bangladeshi Muslims”. Facebook took down his post after Avaaz flagged it for breaching its Community Standards.

Jiten Dutta, a member of the banned group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), has called for actions against 16“foreigners” on Facebook since 2017. Facebook took down at least 7 of his profiles under its “Dangerous Individuals” policy after Avaaz flagged them starting in June. It also took down 174 fan pages which collectively had over 12,900 followers. Facebook refuses to publicly announce Dutta’s designation as a ‘Dangerous individual’ on its platform, while he keeps setting up new profiles.

“Troll Assamese Media”, a page with 15,828 followers was spreading a high volume of hate speech through memes and other images. After Avaaz flagged it to Facebook, it took down the page.

Related:

  1. The Highs & Lows of Foreigners Tribunals that affects Justice Delivery: Assam
  2. Don't spend tax-payers money on detention centres: Anti-NRC Forum
  3. Assam: The Curious Case of Phuljan Nessa
  4. Family incorrectly left out of NRC: CJP intervenes
  5. National Register of Citizens: How the BJP is turning regional conflicts into national campaigns of hate

 

Hate Speech on FB is BJP’s weapon of choice in Assam: Report

While the Assamese language that has been used potently to spew hate targeting the state’s Muslim minority, leaving them vulnerable to targeted violence; Facebook has been, so far, unresponsive

assam NRC
Image courtesy: https://www.dnaindia.com/

Elected representative or party functionary, the supremacist BJP has found a potent technique to garner support, keep the hate pot boiling, polarise the polity and electorate and ‘govern.’ Assam and Bengal are especial targets with the controversial NRC and proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) the occasion to hate-let against marginalised religious minorities. A member of the Assam state legislature from the ruling BJP, Shiladitya Dev, published a post, shared over 800 times, claiming those who rape “our mothers and sisters” must be “Bangladeshi Muslims”. Facebook took down his post after it was flagged by an international organisationfor breaching its Community Standards. Dev is followed by 22, 190 persons on Facebook. The text and messaging from Dev’s FB account that went unchallenged until it was pulled up said, “Protecting “Indian” women from “rape-obsessed foreigners” was a particular theme running through several posts.” So far, the ruling BJP has not censored Dev nor taken any punitive action against him. Dev has in the past derided the Supreme Court of India and made inciteful speeches that arguably could trigger violence against the minorities.

There is another such serial offender. Jiten Dutta, a member of the banned group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), has called for actions against 16“foreigners” on Facebook since 2017. Facebook took down at least 7 of his profiles under its “Dangerous Individuals” policy after the same organisation, Avaaz flagged them starting in June. It also took down 174 fan pages which collectively had over 12,900 followers. Facebook refuses to publicly announce Dutta’s designation as a ‘Dangerous individual’ on its platform, while he keeps setting up new profiles. Avaaz has recently published a report, Megaphone for Hate – Disinformation and Hate Speech on Facebook during Assam’s Citizenship Count. The report may be read here.

 

The report finds that hate speech targeted at minorities in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam is spreading almost unabated through Facebook at the same time as the Indian government is stripping nearly 2 million people there of citizenship. Posts targeting religious and ethnic minorities in Assam have been seen more than 5.4 million times, according to the global online advocacy group Avaaz, calling into question the success of the approach taken by Facebook since it was used to spread hate speech during the 2017 Rohingya genocide, according to the Time Magazine..

In August this year, the government published its final list of citizens of Assam, leaving 1.9 million people off. The entire process of updating the NRC, begun through a hard-earned consensus in the state deteriorated after the ruling BJP at the state and centre overtly politicised the issue making it ‘target driven.’ Alaphia Zoyab, a senior campaigner at Avaaz who led the team that wrote the report has expressed concerns about the response from Facebook. Speaking to us she said, “They need to heed the warnings now and not wait till violence actually breaks out like it happened during the Rohingya crisis.”

The situation in Assam has been called a serious humanitarian crisis with the United Nations(UN) cautioning the Indian government, repeatedly. It has also drawn comparisons to the Buddhist extremist campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar which peaked in 2017, forcing more than 700,000 to flee their homes. Under NDA II rule, with Hindu supremacists firmly in the saddle, minorities have faced a surge in attacks. In Assam, some 1.9 million people, many believed to be from the Bengali-speaking minority, are threatened with statelessness as a result of government measures aimed at removing “infiltrators” from the country. While linguistic and ethnic minorities as much as religious ones have been excluded from the final NRC, it is Bengali Muslims in particularwho evidently seem to be the targets of hate speech on Facebook. Avaaz’s report found posts on the site calling them “parasites,” “rats” and “rapists,” and calling for them to be exterminated.

Facebook was seriously in the dock after the targeted violence against Rohingyas, termed a  genocide by the UN. Facebook was criticized for not employing any Burmese-speakers able to detect and remove hate speech. Facebookadmitted as much in 2018 it had not “done enough” to prevent the genocide, and had since “invested heavily in people, technology and partners to address the abuse of Facebook in Myanmar.”

Now this Avaaz report, which focuses on hate speech in the Assamese language, pulls up Facebook’s operational systems: is there anything really in place to detect hate speech in languages other than English? “Facebook is relying too heavily on artificial intelligence to detect hate speech,” Zoyab says “Our research shows that reliance is based on a false premise, because it assumes people are flagging hate-speech, which then teaches its artificial intelligence systems. That’s not happening.”

When contacted by the US-based Time magazine, Facebook did not immediately respond to questions inquiring how many Assamese speakers it employs as part of its 15,000-strong team of content moderators.

What does the Avaaz report say?

In its report,Avaaz said it reported 213 of the “clearest examples of hate speech” to Facebook, but said that the site had removed only 96 of them for breaching its community standards. The report details one case where one individual inciting hatred against Bengali Muslims had his page removed by Facebook seven times, only to set up new accounts each time and continue posting.

Key Findings

Inter-ethnic hate speech targeting minorities in Assam has been shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook during the NRC process. Despite repeated calls from Avaaz to Facebook to proactively enforce with human content moderators it’s Community Standards on hate speech in Assamese, Bengali and Hindi with a team that understands the issues specific to Assam, Facebook has not yet committed to doing so.

The 213 examples that Avaaz flagged as hate speech to Facebook were shared over 99,650 times. Facebook has taken down 96 of the posts, pages and comments we reported to them. These were at least viewed 5.4 million times.

The label “Bangladeshi Muslim” has become a charged term of abuse on Facebook, reflecting assumptions of “foreign-ness” of Bengali Muslims who are described as “criminals,” “rapists,” and “terrorists”, and also depicted as subhuman -- “mosquitoes,” “pigs,” and “dogs.”

Avaaz found striking similarities between the dehumanising language used to describe minorities in Assam and hate speech directed at the Rohingya community in Myanmar.

Many regional and national news outlets amplify inflammatory or hate speech of prominent individuals and politicians by directly quoting it in the headlines of the outlets’ Facebook posts.

“Troll Assamese Media”, a page with 15,828 followers was spreading a high volume of hate speech through memes and other images. After Avaaz flagged it to Facebook, it took down the page.

Inter-ethnic hate speech targeting minorities in Assam has been shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook during the NRC process.

Despite repeated calls from Avaaz to Facebook to proactively enforce with human content moderators it’s Community Standards on hate speech in Assamese, Bengali and Hindi with a team that understands the issues specific to Assam, Facebook has not yet committed to doing so. The 213 examples that Avaaz flagged as hate speech to Facebook were shared over 99,650 times.

Facebook has taken down 96 of the posts, pages and comments we reported to them. These were at least viewed 5.4 million times. The label “Bangladeshi Muslim” has become a charged term of abuse on Facebook, reflecting assumptions of “foreign-ness” of Bengali Muslims who are described as “criminals,” “rapists,” and “terrorists”, and also depicted as subhuman -- “mosquitoes,” “pigs,” and “dogs.”

Avaaz found striking similarities between the dehumanising language used to describe minorities in Assam and hate speech directed at the Rohingya community in Myanmar. Many regional and national news outlets amplify inflammatory or hate speech of prominent individuals and politicians by directly quoting it in the headlines of the outlets’ Facebook posts.

Protecting “Indian” women from “rape-obsessed foreigners” was a particular theme running through several posts. A member of the Assam state legislature, Shiladitya Dev, published a post, shared over 800 times, claiming those who rape “our mothers and sisters” must be “Bangladeshi Muslims”. Facebook took down his post after Avaaz flagged it for breaching its Community Standards.

Jiten Dutta, a member of the banned group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), has called for actions against 16“foreigners” on Facebook since 2017. Facebook took down at least 7 of his profiles under its “Dangerous Individuals” policy after Avaaz flagged them starting in June. It also took down 174 fan pages which collectively had over 12,900 followers. Facebook refuses to publicly announce Dutta’s designation as a ‘Dangerous individual’ on its platform, while he keeps setting up new profiles.

“Troll Assamese Media”, a page with 15,828 followers was spreading a high volume of hate speech through memes and other images. After Avaaz flagged it to Facebook, it took down the page.

Related:

  1. The Highs & Lows of Foreigners Tribunals that affects Justice Delivery: Assam
  2. Don't spend tax-payers money on detention centres: Anti-NRC Forum
  3. Assam: The Curious Case of Phuljan Nessa
  4. Family incorrectly left out of NRC: CJP intervenes
  5. National Register of Citizens: How the BJP is turning regional conflicts into national campaigns of hate

 

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