Update (September 3, 16:40 IST): T. Raja Singh, in a video released to media outlets in Hyderabad on Thursday, “thanked” Facebook for banning profiles and groups dedicated to him on the social media platform. Speaking in Telugu, Singh said that though these accounts might have been opened by his followers, he didn’t know about them.
“Facebook did the right thing. If these accounts are being run in my name without my knowledge, they must be illegal,” he said. He added that since Facebook had closed down the “illegal” pages, the platform should give him access to his own official page that he has reportedly not been able to use since 2019. He said he was ready to submit his Aadhaar card to prove his identity to facilitate the process. In a subsequent tweet, Singh reminded his followers that he hadn’t used Facebook since 2019. “So, banning me makes no sense,” he said.

*Original story published at 11:29 IST, September 3

Facebook has banned from its platforms T Raja Singh, a BJP MLA from Telangana, for violating its hate speech policies, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. At least five profiles dedicated to Singh with more than 300,000 followers and groups devoted to him have been removed from Facebook. Singh’s Instagram account too has reportedly been suspended.

Facebook has taken action against Singh after weeks of intense scrutiny. Last month, the WSJ had reported that Facebook had refused to take down posts by Singh and other Hindu nationalist individuals for fear that it may hurt the company’s business interests. Ankhi Das, Facebook’s head of public policy in India, had opposed designating Singh as a “dangerous individual”.

On his Facebook posts and in public appearances, Singh, the sole BJP MLA in Telangana, had said that Rohingya Muslim immigrants should be shot. He also called Muslims “traitors” and threatened to destroy mosques. Facebook told WSJ that Singh had been removed from the platform for promoting and engaging in violence and hate. It added that the decision had been taken after an “extensive” process for evaluating potential violators.

Opposition parties such as the Congress and Trinamool Congress have criticised Facebook. They called for an investigation of Facebook’s India leadership.

IT Standing Committee questions Facebook executives

On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Standing Committee held a hearing on the matter of “prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”. Ajit Mohan, the head of Facebook’s India operations, was questioned on the accusations of political bias against the company, according to a PTI report.

IT Minister writes to Mark Zuckerberg

Earlier this week, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to raise “serious concerns” about the company’s Indian arm. He claimed that Facebook had worked to delete and reduce the reach of pages supportive of the ruling BJP’s “right-of-centre” ideology. He also accused Facebook’s Indian leadership to be dominated by members with opposing ideologies, which apparently resulted in the censorship of such pages.

Delhi govt committee holds Facebook ‘prima facie’ guilty of inciting violence

On Monday, the Delhi State Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee found Facebook prima facie guilty of aggravating the Delhi riots earlier this year in February. Raghav Chadha, Committee chairman and AAP MLA, demanded an independent investigation into Facebook’s role in the riots, and that a supplemental chargesheet be filed against the company in ongoing cases related to the riots. Chadha added that Facebook executives would be summoned for the Committee’s next hearing.

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****Updated at 16:40 IST, September 3. Original story published at 11:29 IST, September 3