Meta’s Role in Propagating Islamophobia and Misinformation by Pro-BJP Accounts

Meta’s Role in Propagating Islamophobia and Misinformation by Pro-BJP Accounts

April 25, 2024 Off By Sharp Media

The social media giant Meta (formerly Facebook) has come under scrutiny for hosting advertisements rife with hate speech, misinformation, and Islamophobia, sponsored by pro-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pages on Facebook. A report by three human rights advocacy groups has brought to light the dissemination of such ads even during periods when the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is in force, raising concerns about potential violations of Indian laws amid the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

Titled “Slander, Lies, and Incitement: India’s Million Dollar Election Meme Network,” the report was jointly released by three human rights advocacy groups based in the US and the Netherlands, including Foundation the London Story (TLS), Eko, and India Civil Watch International (ICWI). It exposes how these advertisements perpetuate Islamophobic tropes and disinformation targeting Muslims, portraying them as sexually violent invaders and instigators of communal riots, as well as patrons of terror.

Additionally, the ads propagate Hindu supremacist narratives, advocating for the transformation of India into a Hindu nation and promoting hashtags associated with Hindu supremacist groups. They also feature aggressive and violent rhetoric against opposition parties, labeling them as a “virus” in need of eradication. Opposition leaders and parties are vilified as “demons” and “poisonous snakes.”

Women lawmakers, journalists, and activists are not spared from the targeting either, being labeled as “anti-India.” Prominent figures such as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Samajwadi Party leaders Akhilesh Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav, Rahul Gandhi, and others have been singled out through these advertisements.

The report reveals that one million US dollars were spent by 22 far-right shadow advertisers over a 90-day period on Meta’s platform, accounting for a significant portion of “issues, elections, or politics” advertisements in India during the same period. Furthermore, it identifies 36 ads potentially violating Indian election laws by promoting hate speech, Islamophobia, communal violence, and misinformation, amassing millions of impressions.

The report uncovered a coordinated network led by a public page named Ulta Chashma, which collaborated with nine other pages to share content, hashtags, and ad payments. Despite Meta’s ad transparency policy, loopholes allowed for early political ad postings, indicating a breach of regulations.

Dr. Ritumbra Manuvie, Executive Director of Foundation the Landon Story, emphasized the urgency of the situation, noting that while they have previously raised concerns, the stakes are higher than ever with elections looming. The report underscores the need for stricter enforcement of regulations to curb the spread of hate speech and misinformation on social media platforms during sensitive political periods.