Facebook Leaks Reveal Double Standard in Asia

Failure to follow own policy on hate speech in India . . . 

Recent internal documents leaked by a whistleblower revealed that Facebook either lacked the capacity to prevent the spread of misinformation or was selective in suppressing harmful content from its platforms in developing countries. Asia, where 40 per cent of the company’s users reside, has been particularly affected. In India, Facebook’s largest market globally, the leaked documents show the company did not follow its own policy on hate speech and allowed misinformation and inflammatory content against Muslims to be viewed and shared. Facebook is also criticized for not having taken the necessary steps to monitor its platforms in a country as diverse as India, with 22 recognized languages and multiple faiths and ethnicities.

Empowering the state in Vietnam . . .

In Vietnam, it was reported through the leaked documents that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally agreed to the Vietnamese government’s demand to block “anti-state” content it deemed illegal. With the Southeast Asian country boasting 53 million Facebook users and being the company’s most important market in the region in terms of revenue, the social media platform allegedly chose profit over the safety and rights of its users. While Facebook is used to organize protests, activists accuse the company of curbing free speech by silencing opposing voices in an already censored country, warning that the social media platform is being utilized as a tool of the state.

Two markets, two standards?

While Facebook’s business is stagnating in the U.S. and Europe, it is growing substantially in Asia. In the last quarter, it lost two million users in the U.S. and Europe, while in Asia it gained 28 million. Facebook has been accused of applying its rules and policies selectively around the world and being less inclined to resist authorities’ demands in promising markets like those in Asia. It is also accused of prioritizing fighting misinformation in America and seemingly neglecting the same in Asia. With its negative effects also well-documented in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines, Facebook will have to invest substantially in non-English speaking countries to address accusations that it has contributed to violence, censorship, and discrimination. Doing so will require more than the company’s reimagining as ‘Meta,’ a rebranding effort announced today and described as a digital world built over our own, comprising virtual and augmented reality.