Internal Facebook documents revealed that while the company enjoyed an unprecedented popularity in India in 2019, researchers were warning about the presence of religious hate speech among the nation’s Hindus and Muslims. 

Researchers monitored a test account that was open from February to March. It quickly became saturated with misinformation, bigotry, and celebrations of violence. One report would eventually link to the February 2020 religious riots that claimed 53 lives, The Washington Post reports.  

According to a Facebook researcher, “The News Feed of the test user has become a near constant stream of polarizing nationist content, misinformation and violence and gore,” the report stated.

“I’ve seen more images about dead people in the last three weeks than in my entire life.”  

However, the researcher’s suggestions to fix the problem were allegedly ignored because of ‘political sensibilities’ – their ties to India’s ruling party.

These internal documents were part of a large cache that Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, had collected and released. 

Facebook is India’s largest market, with more that 300 million users. WhatsApp also has more then 400 million users. 

The deadly Dehli riots took place from February 23 to 29 in 2020 and left 53 dead

53 people were killed in the Dehli riots, which took place from February 23rd to 29th 2020.

The riots came as the nation's Hindu majority clashed with its Muslim minority

The nation’s Hindu majority clashed against its Muslim minority, triggering the riots

Facebook researchers said the growing amount of hate speech on the platform may have fueled the fires of the riots as it polarized its Hindu and Muslim users

Facebook researchers say that the rising amount of hate speech on Facebook may have fueled the riots, as it polarized its Hindus and Muslims users.

Equity Labs found that more than third of the hate speech on Facebook in 2019 was directed at Muslims. Researchers claim that Facebook was well aware of the problem

Equity Labs discovered that Muslims were the target for more than a third (33%) of hate speech on Facebook during 2019. Researchers claim that Facebook was aware of the problem.

According to internal documents, Facebook saw a spike of 300% leading up to the riots. This was accompanied by increasing violence calls flooding WhatsApp and Facebook, which is an international text and phone service. 

These documents echo a 2019 Equity Labs study, which is an international nonprofit organization that studies the causes and consequences of racial inequalities. It shows that Facebook was fully aware that India was experiencing polarization. 

Equity Labs’ research showed that more than one third of the hate speech in Facebook was directed towards India’s Muslim minority. 

Facebook’s researchers interviewed Hindu users to confirm this. They said that they saw posts vilifying Muslim neighbors quite often. 

Similar sentiments were expressed by Muslims interviewed, who said that they had started to fear for the lives of their children because of all the hate on Facebook. 

“It’s terrifying. It’s really scary,” a Muslim man said in the report. 

Many users stated to researchers that it was Facebook’s responsibility reduce this content. 

Another Muslim interviewee warned that India will be a “very difficult place to live in for everyone”. “If social media survives ten more years like this there will be only hate.”  

Family members mourned those who died in the 2020 riots

Families mourned the loss of loved ones in the 2020 riots

The riots came as Muslims protested the nation's new citizenship law. The protestors were attacked by Hindu counter-protestors

The riots occurred as Muslims protested against the nation’s new citizenship laws. Hindu counter-protestors attacked protestors 

A man is pictured crying over the death of Mohammad MudAsir, who led one of the protests

A man is shown crying over Mohammad MudAsir’s death, who was the leader of one of the protests

The Facebook researchers discovered that two Hindu nationalist groups had ties to India’s ruling Party and were leading the anti-Muslim wave. 

One report says that the researchers recommended that one group be removed from Facebook. 

Researchers said the other group promoted violence against Muslims and compared minority groups to ‘pigs’ and ‘dogs. 

The report said that the groups remain active on Facebook and were not classified as ‘dangerous due to ‘political sensibilities. 

The documents also contained reports on hot bots, fake accounts and other issues tied to the ruling party of the country. These were causing chaos and division through their platform. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made anti-Muslim claims often as nationalist groups like those mentioned in the report use his speeches to propagate violence towards the minority group. 

Modi’s citizenship law, which prohibited immigrants from obtaining legal citizenship, was the catalyst for the 2020 riots. It was also seen as a political move against Muslim immigrants.  

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, pictured hugging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook researchers said that Hindu nationalists groups linked to Modi were allowed to stay up despite their use of the platform to promote hate and violence against Muslims

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, pictured hugging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook researchers discovered that Modi’s Hindu nationalist group was allowed to remain up despite using the platform for hate and violence against Muslims.  

Facebook has several offices in India, like the one in Gurgaon, pictured. Employees in India were reportedly threatened with jail time by Modi's administration

Facebook has several offices across India, including the Gurgaon office. Modi’s administration threatened Indian employees with jail time.

The Modi government threatened to jail Twitter employees and Facebook employees earlier in the year if they didn’t comply with take down requests, as the nation tried to crush political protests on social media. The WSJ reports. 

Another researcher stated in a report Facebook was not equipped for taking down posts from Hindu nationalists group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) because the group posted Hindi and Bengali which their system couldn’t translate.

RSS posts claim that Muslims are responsible for COVID-19’s spread to India. It also claims that Muslim men try and lure Hindu women into marriage in order to convert them to Islam. 

According to New York Times reports, the documents stated that RSS would remain intact due to ‘political delicates’. Modi had been working for the RSS for decades. 

Bajrang Dal was another Hindu nationalist group that is linked to Modi. It was reported that they used WhatsApp to ‘organize violence’ but it remains active on Facebook. 

Researchers found that the company refused to remove Bajrang Dal despite warnings from Facebook. This could have been detrimental to the company’s business prospects and staff, as well as anger Modi’s party.  

Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Facebook, declined to comment on the Hindu nationalist groups, but said that the company bans certain individuals or groups ‘after following an careful, rigorous, multidisciplinary process. 

According to him, the reports were not final investigations and were intended to be used in policy recommendations. 

He stated that Facebook has made significant investments in technology to locate hate speech all over the globe and that such posts have been declining. did not receive a response from Facebook immediately to our request for comment. 

This is the second instance of hate speech being allowed to grow on Facebook against a Muslim minority. 

A Facebook post calling for the mass killings of Muslims in India similar to those taking place at the time in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma

A Facebook post calling for mass murders of Muslims in India, similar to those occurring in Myanmar, formerly Burma

An anonymous whistleblower complained that Facebook was not aggressive enough in its response to Myanmar military officials using the platform for hate speech during 2017 mass killings of Rohingya ethnic groups. 

The whistleblower’s most dramatic line is when the ex-employe laments over Facebook’s inability quickly to respond to the killings by the Muslims group, while military officials used the site for hate speech. 

The whistleblower wrote, “I, working for Facebook had been a part to genocide.”

Facebook acknowledged that it failed to act quickly on the mass Rohingya deaths, but now the company says it doesn’t make such mistakes.

McPike stated in a statement that Facebook’s approach in Myanmar today was fundamentally different to 2017 and that the allegations that we haven’t invested in safety or security in Myanmar are wrong.  

Haugen (pictured testifying in Congress on October 5), who claims Facebook puts 'profits before people,' earlier this month released tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in the company's civic integrity unit

Haugen (pictured in Congress on October 5, 2015), who claims Facebook puts profits before people, earlier this month published tens of thousand of pages of internal research documents that she secretly copied before she left her job at the company’s civic integrity division.

Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony to Congress

Frances Haugen, Whistleblower at Facebook, called for transparency regarding how Facebook encourages users to scroll on its apps and the potential harm it can cause.

Haugen, a former product manager for Facebook’s civic misinformation group, stated that Facebook will continue to operate in the shadows and hide its research from public scrutiny. She left the $1 trillion-plus company with tens and thousands of confidential documents.

“The company’s leadership knows how Facebook and Instagram can be safer, but they won’t make necessary changes because they have placed their enormous profits before the people. Haugen stated that Congress must act.

Haugen revealed she was the person who provided documents used in a Wall Street Journal and a Senate hearing on Instagram’s harm to teenage girls. She compared the services of social media to addictive substances like opioids and tobacco.

Before the hearing, she appeared on CBS television program ’60 Minutes,’ revealing her identity as the whistleblower who provided the documents.

During the interview, she stated that there were conflicts of interests between what was best for the public and what was best for Facebook. ‘And Facebook overtly chose to optimize its own interests, such as making more money.

Haugen, who worked previously at Google and Pinterest, claimed that Facebook has lied about the progress it made in clamping down on hate speech on its platform.

She said that Facebook was used to organize the Capitol Riot on January 6, 2012, after the company had turned off safety systems in the wake of the U.S. presidential election.

She said that while she believed no one at Facebook was “malevolent”, she felt the company had misaligned its incentives.

In response to Haugen’s bombshell comments, a Facebook executive accused her of stealing company documents and claimed she is ‘not an expert’ on the company’s content algorithms.

Monika Bickert was Facebook’s Vice President for Content Policy. She spoke out in an interview with Fox News, criticizing Haugen one day after she testified before Congress.

Bickert claimed that Haugen’mischaracterized’ internal studies concerning the harmful effects of content on Facebook and Instagram. These studies were presented to Congress by Bickert.

Haugen testified before Congress in early October, where she claimed Facebook promoted divisiveness as a way to keep people on the site, with Haugen saying the documents showed the company had failed to protect young users.

It also showed that Instagram had a negative effect on young girls’ body images. The company even tried to come up with ways to appeal toddlers through ‘exploring playdates to grow’.

“The company’s leadership knows how Facebook and Instagram can be safer, but they won’t make necessary changes because they have placed their enormous profits before the people. Haugen indicated that Congress should act during a hearing.

Haugen filed anonymously eight complaints against her former employer at the US Securities and Exchange Commission. She told 60 Minutes earlier in the month that Facebook had repeatedly demonstrated it would choose safety over profit.

She claimed that a 2018 shift prioritizing divisive posts, which caused Facebook users to argue, led to increased user engagement.

This in turn led to bosses selling more online ads, which has seen the social media giant reach $1 trillion in value.

“You force us to take positions we don’t like and that we know are harmful for society. We know that if we don’t take these positions, we won’t win in social media’s marketplace,’ Haugen stated.

She also blamed Facebook, which she said was responsible for the January 6 Capitol riot.

The senator is now asking Zuckerberg to testify before a panel investigating Facebook’s Instagram and its effect on young people. He has already heard harsh criticisms from a former employee.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who heads the Senate Commerce subcommittee for consumer protection, sent a clear-worded letter Wednesday asking the Facebook founder to testify about Instagram’s effects upon children.

Blumenthal wrote to Zuckerberg that he was deeply disturbed by ongoing reports from Facebook that Instagram knows that Instagram can cause lasting and destructive harms to many children and teens, especially their mental health.

“Those parents, along with the twenty million teens who use Instagram, have a right and a duty to know the truth about Instagram’s safety.

Blumenthal told Zuckerberg that in the wake of Haugen’s testimony, Blumenthal said, “Facebook representatives, including you, have doubled-down on evasive responses, keeping hidden many reports on teen healthcare, offering noncommittal, vague plans for action at a unspecified time downthe road, and even turning personal attacks on Ms. Haugen.’

Blumenthal offered, however, that either Zuckerberg, or the head at Instagram, Adam Mosseri could appear before his committee.

Zuckerberg told him that ‘It is urgently necessary for you or Mr. Adam Mosseri testify to set record and provide members of Congress with a plan on what you are going to do to protect our children,’

A Facebook spokesperson, based in Menlo Park (California), confirmed Blumenthal’s receipt, but declined to comment. 

Haugen, who supported her statements with tens to thousands of pages of internal research documents that she secretly copied before she left her job in the company’s civic integrity unit, accused Facebook, among other things, of prioritizing safety over safety and being dishonest about its public fight against hate speech and misinformation.

Haugen testified that Mark was the final victim. “Mark is the only one who is currently responsible for his actions.”