Breaking: Indian diaspora group seals off Meta’s London HQ for “crimes against democracy” ahead of Indian election

Real Facebook Oversight Board
4 min readApr 17, 2024

Citizens urge immediate action to safeguard elections on Meta platforms

London, UK, Wednesday 17 April — Meta’s London HQ has this morning been targeted by a group of Indians and British-Indians for continuing to profit from hate-inciting Facebook posts ahead of India’s election. As Meta employees arrived for work they were met by protesters wearing forensics suits sealing off the entrance to the building with blue and white incident tape and setting up a crime scene outside to investigate Meta’s ‘crimes against democracy’.

India, the world’s largest democracy, will be heading to the polls from this Friday, when almost 1 billion people will be eligible to vote. But despite repeated warnings, censure and committee hearings, Meta has failed to take effective action to stop the flow of hate-inciting content to the largest Facebook audience in the world: 400 million Indian users. Instead, Meta continues to profit from shadow advertisers by promoting posts vilifying and calling for the killing of ethnic minorities, which have resulted in violent crime and mob attacks, particularly against Muslims. Dozens of groups internationally are urging Meta to adopt a 10-Point Plan in order to protect lives and livelihoods in India. Key demands include:

1. Stop all paid political advertising during India’s election silence period

2. Turn off behavioural profiling in recommendations system by default

3. Provide meaningful transparency on the source of funding for all political advertisements

“Mark Zuckerberg is profiting from hate — it’s a crime against democracy in India,” said Lotika Singha, one of the protesters and co-chair of InSAF India. “Facebook takes money to amplify posts which call for people to be killed, which demean and demonise Muslims and which sow disinformation. It took two years for Facebook to remove a post from a prominent Hindu priest saying he wanted to ‘eliminate Muslims and Islam from the face of the Earth.’ It had 32 million views. How many minds are being warped by posts like that? As members of the Indian diaspora, we are outraged at Meta’s lack of action about its devastating impact in India. With India’s elections starting this week, we are sounding the alarm bells: Meta must act urgently and enforce a silence period during the election.”

In a record year for elections, with almost 2 billion people set to go to the polls across 50 countries, Meta’s Facebook has been failing democracy: promoting hate-filled content funded by dark money advertisers, which is having real world consequences for minority communities, not only in India. Despite repeated calls from governments and civil society, Meta has failed to take serious action — slashing its election integrity staff, eliminating key transparency tools and greenlighting toxic disinformation.

“This year’s elections in India are a formidable challenge to the very foundations of democracy, and social media corporations must treat them as such. Social media corporations must now demonstrate that they will radically depart from business as usual — in which profits are more important than people,” said Dr Ritumbra Manuvie, Executive Director of Foundation The London Story. “We’ve drawn up a 10-point plan that Meta should adopt. It starts with respecting a period of election silence during the Indian election. They know that otherwise as the situation becomes more febrile, that these posts can cause real world harm. If Meta doesn’t want more blood on its hands, it has to take urgent action.”

“India is the canary in the coal mine — the first of several critical elections in 2024 that are at grave risk from Meta’s abject abandonment of election integrity,” said a spokesperson for the Real Facebook Oversight Board, a tech accountability organisation and partner on today’s action. “Meta’s platforms have proved so corrosive in India that Indians and British Indians are literally putting their bodies on the line today for democracy. This is an urgent call to Meta, its shareholders and its many customers — safeguard elections before it’s too late.”

Rajiv Sinha, Hindus for Human Rights UK, who took part in the protest, said: “We, members of the Indian diaspora, are sounding the alarm bell on how Meta is complicit in the spread of hate, violence, and extremism. Social media corporations like Meta have shown blatant disregard for domestic law and human life in India. That’s why we’re calling on them and other social media companies to urgently do what is necessary under India’s domestic laws: enforce an election silence period.”

Another protester, Praveen Kolluguri, said: “Meta has shown it can implement guard rails to protect democracy during US elections. We’re asking for similar rules to be extended to India to prevent serious harms during the election. With our action, we want to make it clear that Meta can’t get away with treating Global South democracies like India with contempt. Meta should stop prioritising profit and do the right thing.”

The Real Facebook Oversight Board is an emergency response to the ongoing harms on Facebook’s platforms from leading global scholars, experts and advocates.

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Real Facebook Oversight Board

An emergency response to the ongoing harms on Facebook’s platforms from leading global scholars, experts and advocates.