A consortium of 17 news outlets is examining the “Facebook Papers,” a trove of internal documents turned over to federal regulators by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen that sheds new light on the social media giant’s role in spreading misinformation and polarizing content. The documents reveal most of Facebook’s efforts to combat online hate are focused on the United States, even though 90% of users are outside the country. A test account created by Facebook managers to represent a young Indian adult user quickly became inundated in India with Hindu nationalist propaganda, antiMuslim hate speech, and incitements towards violence. This is “deeply concerning,” says Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley, and notes his grandfather was active in Gandhi’s independence movement and spent several years in jail for promoting human rights. Khanna says Facebook needs to take remedial action and acknowledge what’s wrong. “You need legal remedies.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be final.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Congressmember Khanna. You represent Silicon Valley and I want you to answer some questions about Facebook. A consortium of 17 news organizations is currently reviewing the so-called Facebook Papers. These documents, which were uncovered by Frances Haugen, a Facebook whistleblower, are providing new insight into the role of Facebook in spreading misinformation. The documents reveal most of Facebook’s efforts to combat online hate are focused on the United States. We’re talking about the United States audience is like 9%, and something like 90% of the resources are spent on the U.S., when 90% of their audience is outside of the United States. We reported in headlines that a test account created by Facebook managers to represent a young Indian adult user quickly became inundated with hate speech, Hindu nationalism propaganda, and incitements towards violence. A Facebook staffers said, “I’ve seen more images of dead people in the past 3 weeks than I’ve seen in my entire life total.”
You are not only Silicon Valley’s representative, you are also an Indian American. Can you talk about the significance of this, and what you’re demanding of your hometown multinational corporation?
REPRO. RO KHANNA: Amy, I enjoyed your point of view. I’m not just an Indian American, but, as you may remember, my grandfather spent four years in jail as part of Gandhi’s independence movement. So I am an Indian American who believes that pluralism is key to democracies and key to India’s best traditions.
It’s deeply concerning, and someone should look at the report that Muslim Advocates put out, “Complicit,” that talks about how some of the social media was captured in places like India, in places like Myanmar, to have incitement of violence against minorities, where people from the government actually captured the regulatory processes at these social media companies.
Facebook must take corrective action and admit to its mistakes, but legal remedies are needed. I propose that the Alien Torts Act be extended to allow individuals from outside the United States to sue the United States courts. There should be a recourse for speech that incites violence or mass human rights violations. Right now, the only recourse for them is to the company. Unfortunately, the company in these overseas markets is often taken by bad interests. So, whether it’s —
AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.
REP. RO KHANNA: — in the United States courts, yeah, or international courts — I’m sorry for going too long; I just feel very passionate about this issue — there needs to be accountability and legal reform.
AMY GOODMAN: We are so grateful to you for being here. Ro Khanna, a congressman from Silicon Valley in California, is our representative.