Despite this damning finding, Facebook has yet to address the anti-Muslim problems found by its own audit or those identified by advocates around the world in the preceding years. The company’s actions, or lack thereof, indicate that its decision to engage in the audit was not necessarily out of concern for lives lost because of its inaction, but rather for political expediency. Incredibly, the same day that the civil rights audit was announced in May 2018, the company also announced that one of the United States Senate’s most notorious anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant members, former Senator Jon Kyl, would conduct his own audit into anti-conservative bias on the platform. Kyl has a history of demonizing Muslims and working with anti-Muslim hate groups. This is illustrative of Facebook’s penchant to fail to simply do what’s right and what they’ve promised; instead, the company falsely equated the protection of their users’ safety, civil rights, and human rights with satisfying partisan political interests. Investigating human and civil rights abuses and global anti-Muslim hate content that leads to the loss of life should not have been presented as needing to be balanced with an investigation of alleged anti-conservative bias.
For years, civil rights organizations and policymakers have raised concerns both privately and publicly, begging the company to take action. It has not. Out of desperation to be heard, many organized boycotts, called for the board and company leadership to be replaced, and asked governments to step in. Still, Facebook’s strategy was to wait and do almost nothing.
Outside of the U.S., where vulnerable communities have fewer options for recourse, the picture is even bleaker. In a most horrifying case, Facebook was cited by the U.N. for playing a “determining” role in the genocide perpetrated against the Muslim Rohingya community in Myanmar. And in India, the Delhi State Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee just recently found that Facebook was complicit in the Delhi riots of February 2020, and should be investigated for every riot since 2014. Evidence shows that Facebook has at times seemingly collaborated with anti-Muslim regimes, such as the current ruling party in India, to protect hate speech by its leadership in contravention of its own anti-hate policies.
Facebook’s leadership has said repeatedly that the company’s policies against hate apply to everyone regardless of who they are or where they are, and yet the company continues to allow anti- Muslim material to stay on the platform, using a variety of excuses including “newsworthiness.” For example, Facebook has said that exceptions to its hate speech policy are sometimes made if content is “newsworthy, significant or important to the public interest.”
At the same time, the company contends that hate speech does not help its bottom line. If so, why has Facebook repeatedly chosen to leave up dangerous hate content, often generated by public figures with large audiences, such as President Donald Trump? Another case in point is India, where Facebook now has its largest user base and is investing in expansion and growth to dominate that very large market. The company is working closely with the current Indian government, in particular Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was himself allegedly involved with stoking anti-Muslim violence when he was governor of the Indian state of Gujarat that led to the deaths of 1,000 Muslims. There appears to be a clear financial incentive to pander to Modi, who has one of the largest number of followers of any political leader on Facebook, and his political party. It is, of course, hate speech by such figures that is the most dangerous because of their reach and influence.
Facebook is seeding and cultivating anti-Muslim bigotry amongst its users, leading to real world violence against the 270 million Muslims living in the nine countries covered in this report. Facebook is indisputably the world’s engine for anti-Muslim violence. The time for discussion of this issue is over. Facebook must act now and end anti-Muslim hate on its platform, no matter who or what entity, is proliferating it.