Facebook responded to the queries from The Indian Express on The New York Times report on ‘the effects of the social media platform in India’, especially during the 2019 general elections.
In Kerala, a Facebook researcher created the user account two years ago that revealed several instances of hate speech and misinformation on the basis of algorithmic recommendations led the company to undertake a “deeper, more rigorous analysis” of its recommendation systems in India, a Facebook spokesperson said. This exploratory effort of one hypothetical test account inspired deeper, more rigorous analysis of our recommendation systems, and contributed to product changes to improve them.
The researcher’s report was one of the dozens of studies and memos written by Facebook employees grappling with the effects of the platform on India, reported by the New York Times.
‘The removal of borderline content and civic and political Groups from our recommendation systems from subsequent, more rigorous research’ a Facebook spokesperson said.
A report published in March 2021 showed that many of the problems cited during the 2019 elections persisted till now.
The internal documents, obtained by a consortium of news organizations including The New York Times, are part of a larger cache of material called The Facebook Papers which were collected by Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who became a whistleblower.
He recently testified before a Senate subcommittee about the company and its social media platforms. References to India were scattered among documents filed by Haugen to the Securities and Exchange Commission in a complaint earlier this month.
Facebook’s changes build restrictions like removing health groups from these surfaces, groups that repeatedly share misinformation specifically for groups sharing misinformation. The company has started ranking all content from such groups lower in the News Feed and limiting notifications with the aim that fewer members see their posts.
The Facebook spokesperson said, their work on curbing hate speech continues and further strengthens their hate classifiers, to include 4 Indian languages.
Facebook also said it witnessed “new types of abuse on Facebook” in the context of Covid, and updated its policies to reflect the changes.
It now removes content that states that people who share a protected characteristic such as race or religion have the virus, created the virus, or are spreading the virus. As part of enforcing this policy, the company claims to have blocked several hashtags that were primarily being used to target the Muslim community in the context of Covid.
Sources – The New York Times, The Indian Express.