Why Facebook is on the fence about banning Bajrang Dal

Why Facebook is on the fence about banning Bajrang Dal

Bajrang Dal has been classified as a militant religious organisation by the CIA

Facebook is struggling to curb fake news and hate speech on its platform across the world. Credit: AFP

Social networking giant Facebook is wary of taking up its battle against hate speech and misinformation in India, because of fears within the company that it may hurt Facebook's business and staff in the country, Wall Street Journal reported.

Sources told WSJ that Facebook’s internal team has concluded that the right-wing organisation Bajrang Dal should be qualified as a ‘dangerous organisation’ and be banned from its platform on the basis of incidents in the country. But the social media company is concerned about the safety of its staff in India.

Many of Bajrang Dal's videos have lakhs of views on Facebook. In June this year, Bajrang Dal extremists got into a church in New Delhi and installed a Hindu idol, claiming that the church was constructed on temple grounds. The group posted a video about it on Facebook, which has been viewed over 2.5 lakh times.

According to a report filed by its security team, if Facebook bans the organisation from its website, it may invite attacks on its employees and buildings. The company should also beware of angering the ruling government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by banning the group.

Facebook has five offices in India in New Delhi and Mumbai.

This highlights the struggle Facebook is facing across the world in its efforts to curb hate speech and fake news on its platform. The reason it is especially worried about India is that the South Asian country is Facebook’s largest market by the number of users.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told WSJ that the company does not regard the political position of any group before deciding to ban it.

Bajrang Dal, which has been classified a militant religious organisation by the CIA, said that none of its members partake in any illegal activity or conflicts with other groups.

Mark Zuckerberg-run Facebook has similar concerns about two other right-wing Indian groups, Sanatan Sanstha and Sri Ram Sena, sources are quoted as saying in the report.

The company has deemed India as a ‘Tier One’ country, which means it is considered to be at the highest risk of societal violence and so, requires additional efforts from the company. Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are also on the list.