Indian 'Peace Force' launches Facebook clean-up mission

Jun 17, 2014
Thousands of Indians have signed up to an online campaign aiming to clean Facebook of content they consider offensive, raising fears they are trying to "morally police" the social networking site

Thousands of Indians have signed up to an online campaign aiming to clean Facebook of content they consider offensive, raising fears they are trying to "morally police" the social networking site.

Ravi Ghate, a social entrepreneur in the western city of Pune, set up the "Social Peace Force" group on Facebook a week ago following riots in the area, sparked by controversial photos of local leaders posted on the website.

Since then more than 15,000 people have joined the group, whose plan is to click the "report spam" button en masse when they see a post they deem offensive, in a bid to force Facebook to take it down.

"I was thinking, how can we tackle this problem... We must have some method to stop it on Facebook, at the source," Ghate told AFP.

He said the group would only target religious posts that could provoke riots, not political ones.

"Simply... a Youth Group to stop Anti-Social Messages on FB!" says a message on the group page.

Riots broke out in Pune at the beginning of the month after pictures appeared on Facebook showing a 17th century Indian warrior king linked to a hardline local Hindu nationalist party, and Bal Thackeray, the party's divisive late leader.

A Muslim man—who had no connection to the posting—was beaten to death by members of a radical Hindu group during the riots, police said, while dozens of buses were damaged.

A week later more violence erupted in the area over postings about B.R. Ambedkar, one of the chief architects of India's constitution.

Despite the new group's peaceful intentions, some expressed concerns it could threaten freedom of speech.

"Unfortunately, any effort to contain freedom of expression, even those with worthy intent, tend eventually to become subjective choices on what is deemed 'offensive'," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

"It is perhaps better to use their own freedom of expression to disagree with postings and inform opinion."

Mumbai sociologist Nandini Sardesai accused the force of "moral policing".

While the group says it is focused on religious posts, it is political ones that have proved problematic, she added.

Religiously diverse India, which is about 80 percent Hindu, has powerful censors and tough laws against inciting communal violence.

Many authors and artists practise self-censorship for fear of sparking unrest.

Facebook does not remove content from its site entirely unless it violates the company's statement of rights and responsibilities, said Carson Dalton, a spokesman in India.

"Facebook has created global community standards for content that we believe are a very sound framework for allowing people to express themselves while preventing harm that could result from things they post," he added.

Explore further: Facebook shift steps up privacy for new users

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google, Facebook remove content on India's order

Feb 06, 2012

Google India has removed web pages deemed offensive to Indian political and religious leaders to comply with a court case that has raised censorship fears in the world's largest democracy, media reported Monday.

Hackers target Indian minister in free-speech fight

Nov 30, 2012

Hackers attacked and defaced the website of India's IT minister on Friday amid a growing campaign against a law governing online comments which has been condemned by free-speech advocates.

Facebook joins Web freedom group

May 22, 2013

Facebook on Wednesday became a full member of the Global Network Initiative, a non-governmental organization promoting Internet freedom and privacy rights.

Recommended for you

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

11 hours ago

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

15 hours ago

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

16 hours ago

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

16 hours ago

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

Google to help boost Greece's tourism industry

Aug 21, 2014

Internet giant Google will offer management courses to 3,000 tourism businesses on the island of Crete as part of an initiative to promote the sector in Greece, industry union Sete said on Thursday.

Music site SoundCloud to start paying artists

Aug 21, 2014

SoundCloud said Thursday that it will start paying artists and record companies whose music is played on the popular streaming site, a move that will bring it in line with competitors such as YouTube and Spotify.

User comments : 0