Hundreds of people of different faiths, professions and backgrounds gathered in eight major U.S. cities over the weekend to protest “Facebook allowing hate speech to be freely posted in India, resulting in persecution, physical attacks and killings of members of non-Hindu minority religions.”
The protests, organized by India Genocide Watch, featured speakers demanding that Facebook’s founder-CEO Mark Zuckerberg end his company’s alleged complicity in extreme Hindu right-wing incitement to violence, proliferating on Facebook and WhatsApp”, as claimed by whistleblower Frances Haugen and other leaked reports.
Protesters, including women and children, took it to the streets in Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and San Francisco’s Menlo Park, where Facebook is headquartered.
Many of the protesters, who claim they can never return to India, have family in India. They claimed their families were targets of state-sanctioned persecution, discrimination and physical violence.
“We demand that Facebook designate as dangerous organizations Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, its Nazi-inspired ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamasevak Sangh and their armed affiliates, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal,” declared Rasheed Ahmed, Executive Director of the Indian American Muslim Council.
At a protest at Menlo Park in California, outside the global headquarters of Meta, the new name for Facebook, Inc., Javid Ali of Bay Muslims for Human Rights, said, “Facebook deliberately and knowingly refused to block Islamophobic hate enabling fascist violence against India’s Muslims.”
“Facebook has blood on its hands.” Added Karthic of Ambedkar King Study Circle, “The algorithms used in Facebook are biased against the religious minorities and the socially oppressed. We condemn Facebook for failing to fix these proven issues.”
As protesters braved the rain to march to Facebook’s office in Seattle chanting “Facebook Hatebook,” Kshama Sawant, a member of the Seattle City Council, said, “Companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon are participants… in the state forces of bigotry, hate, religions and caste oppression.” Added Hira Singh Bhullar of Khalsa Gurmat Center, a Sikh NGO: “This hate is coming from politicians promoting hate. Shame on Facebook.” Said Javed Sikander, a Muslim activist: “The hatred is destroying the fabric of Indian society.”
At Charlotte, North Carolina, protester Elyas Mohammed said, “Facebook provided a platform for the right-wing hate-mongering elements to flourish. Had it taken stringent action on fake accounts, things could have been different.”
Shakeib Mashhood, a protester at Houston, Texas, said: “Facebook is becoming a tool to spread hate In India, which is very outrageous. More concerning is that Facebook knew that this was happening, but it did not take any action. They did not block it.”
At Chicago, Syed Shoaib Qadri said, “We want accountability from Facebook for its criminal behaviour.”
Zameer Khan, an organizer of the Atlanta protest, said: “Public protests and demonstrations are needed to begin to galvanize the American people and politicians especially into taking action against Facebook for poor management of its social media platform.”
An article in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal quoted human rights advocates as accusing Facebook of stalling its report on steps it is taking to identify and delete hate speech.
Detailed coverage in Washington Post, New York Times, and Associated Press has quoted extensively from whistleblower Haugen’s submissions to the US Securities & Exchange Commission and other documents to reveal how Facebook knowingly allowed anti-Muslim hate speech and incitement to violence to propagate in India.