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Who is 'Rowdy-sheeter' BJP MLA T Raja Singh and Why Did Facebook Ban Him for Hate Speech?

T Raja Singh is known for making inflammatory comments and has 60 cases against him, most of them regarding hate speech | Image credit: PTI

T Raja Singh is known for making inflammatory comments and has 60 cases against him, most of them regarding hate speech | Image credit: PTI

Formerly a member of TDP, T Raja Singh later joined BJP and has been known to make inflammatory, anti-Muslim speeches and threatening or invoking violence.

Days after the Wall Street Journal published a report exposing the alleged political biases in Facebook’s content policies that seemingly favored the BJP in India, Facebook has announced a ban on BJP MLA T Raja Singh from its platform and Instagram for violating its policy around content promoting violence and hate.

[q]Who is T Raja Singh?[/q]

[ans]T Raja Singh is the lone BJP MLA from Telangana, representing the Goshamahal constituency in Telangana from where he was re-elected in 2018. Formerly a member of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Singh later joined the BJP and currently acts as the party’s chief whip in Telangana. He is known for making controversial comments and inflammatory speeches against immigrants and minorities.[/ans]

READ: Hate Speech, Favouritism, Political Slugfest: Why Indians Want to Delete Facebook, Again
[q]Why did Facebook ban T Raja Singh?[/q]

[ans]Facebook, which counts India among its largest markets with over 300 million users, was under fire ever since the report that alleged that Facebook had ignored posts containing hate speech by Singh. The matter created intense pressure on Facebook to pull up the perpetrators of hate speech. The matter also snowballed into a political storm with both the ruling BJP and Opposition parties like the Congress attacking each other over the social media platform’s alleged bias. A Parliamentary panel even summoned Facebook to answer questions in the matter on Wednesday. Facebook’s decision to ban Singh comes a day after that.[/ans]

[q]What was the hate speech by T Raja Singh?[/q]

[ans]After the initial reports by WSJ, several posts that had previously been allowed to appear on Facebook were reportedly removed. The report, however, cited that Singh was often inflammatory in nature. Spread across various videos and posts, the MLA had called for the killing of Rohingya Muslim refugees by shooting and claimed that Indian Muslims were traitors. In other posts, he also promoted the demolition of mosques[/ans].

READ: Banned by Facebook Now, T Raja Singh Has 60 Cases Against Him: 7 Times His Hate Speeches Hit Headlines

[q]Is this the first time T Raja Singh has made hate speech?[/q]

[ans]Far from it. Singh is, in fact, one of the many controversial leaders in BJP who have been known to make inflammatory speeches and comments. He had once called the Muslim-dominated Hyderabad Old City “Mini Pakistan”, During tension in West Bengal’s Baduria and Basirhat districts in July 2017, Singh appealed to the Hindu community in the state to respond the way Hindus in Gujarat reacted in 2002. He had also proclaimed Kashmiri Muslims were traitors and threatened to burn down theatres at the time of the Padmaavat controversy. The MLA has 60 cases pending against him — hate speeches account for most of them. He was named as a “rowdy sheeter” by Mangalhat police station in December last year.[/ans]

[q]What was Facebook’s initial response?[/q]

[ans]As per WSJ’s initial reports, Facebook senior India employee Ankhi Das allegedly refused to allow the taking down of Raja’s content as it would cause them to fall in disfavour with the ruling dispensation. The report also cited a “broader pattern” of favouritism displayed by Facebook when it came to monitoring hate posts by members of the ruling dispensation, even if the posts were against the platform’s own policies against hate speech. These were the issues that were discussed at the Parliamentary meet.[/ans]

[q]What happened at the Parliamentary panel meeting with Facebook?[/q]

[ans]The Parliamentary panel had summoned Facebook representatives to discuss the issue of alleged misuse of the social media platform. The meeting went on for two hours and 20 minutes and was like a keenly contested match between the BJP and opposition with parliamentarians from both sides asking Facebook of its leanings. Examples of hate speech were cited by both sides, while the opposition cited hate remarks by Telangana MLA Raja Singh and Amit Shah’s speech in Bengal, the BJP spoke of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s remarks of ‘aar ya paar ki ladai’ and “provocative” anti-CAA remarks made by former JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar.[/ans]

READ: Facebook Bans BJP MLA T Raja Singh After Hate Speech Row, Pressure From Oppn Parties

[q]Will Facebook face fire for banning T Raja Singh?[/q]

[ans]On Tuesday, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had also written to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg accusing the social media platform’s employees of supporting people from a political predisposition that lost successive elections, and “abusing” the Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers. Following the ban, many on social media who are in support of the BJP have been calling the platform out for being selective about the ban.[/ans]

[q]How did T Raja Singh respond to the ban?[/q]

[ans]Following the controversy entailing the WSJ report, Singh had claimed that he did not run the Facebook page that ran in his name. In August, Singh told the media that official FB page had been “hacked and blocked” in 2018 but that there has been no response from the police on a complaint filed by him on the matter so far.[/ans]

A Facebook spokesperson in a statement said: “We have banned Raja Singh from Facebook for violating our policy prohibiting those that promote or engage in violence and hate from having a presence on our platform. The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to Facebook’s decision to remove his account.”