A Facebook executive has admitted that the company “made a mistake” in not removing a post that incited racial hatred in Sri Lanka, an international hearing on fake news and disinformation in London heard on Tuesday (Nov. 27). According to Channel News Asia, Facebook’s vice-president of policy solutions Richard Allan was questioned by Singapore Member of Parliament Edwin Tong over a post, written in Sinhalese in March, which called for the killing of all Muslims.
Mr Tong asked if the post breached the social media company’s terms of service. Mr Allan agreed it did.
“It was put up at a time when there were significant tensions between the people of Sri Lanka and Muslims, causing damage to property, deaths even.
Riots. Damage to mosques. And eventually, it resulted in the Sri Lankan government declaring a state of emergency. Would you agree?” Mr Tong said.
Mr Allan replied: “Yes.” “Would you agree that in the context of that kind of tensions occurring in Sri Lanka, putting up such a post would invariably travel far, divide those tensions, or stress those tensions even more, and divide the community?” asked Mr Tong.
Mr Allan replied: “Yes, that’s high-priority content for us to remove.”
When Mr Tong asked why Facebook refused to take down the post in question, even after it was highlighted by Sri Lanka’s communications minister, Mr Allan said it was a “simple error” on the part of a Facebook employee.
At this point, Mr Tong interjected. He argued it was no mistake and Facebook had replied to a user that the post does not go against its community standards.
Mr Allan disagreed. “That was a mistake,” he said. “i just want to be clear that somebody has made a mistake in the review.”
He also disagreed with Mr Tong’s subsequent query on whether this case showed that Facebook “cannot be trusted to make the right assessment” on what can appear on its platform.