“Profiting Off Hate”: Indian-Origin Engineer Quits Facebook, Dealing Another Blow to Its Reputation


“Profiting Off Hate”: Indian-Origin Engineer Quits Facebook, Dealing Another Blow to Its Reputation

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Facebook’s reputation as the friendly, likeable social network has taken quite the nosedive from the early days of sending your friends virtual pokes. The social media giant’s role in influencing the US election in 2016 was well-documented, and more recently, their lax approach to policing hateful content has been critically examined in a series of exposes by The Wall Street Journal. Now, in the latest blow to its reputation as a progressive, inclusive company, one of its engineers, Ashok Chandwaney, announced he was quitting the company due to Facebook “profiting off hate”.

Chandwaney, who quit Facebook on Tuesday, 8 September, announced his decision in a post on the company’s internal messaging board. The 1,300-word missive was then accessed by The Washington Post and published. In it, Chandwaney writes, “It is clear to me that despite the best efforts of many of us who work here, and outside advocates like Color Of Change, Facebook is choosing to be on the wrong side of history.” He also stated that Facebook was not interested in aggressively pursuing strategies to remove hate from the platform, despite pressure from civil society, as well as Facebook’s employees, consultants, and customers.

Chandwaney’s message comes at a time when many users are questioning Facebook’s commitment to removing hateful content. However, Facebook’s spokesperson Liz Bourgeois denied the claims Chandwaney made, saying, “We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and are in deep partnership with outside experts to review and update our policies.” At the same time as Chandwaney quit the company, a group of over 40 non-governmental organisations wrote to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to place Facebook India’s Public Policy Head Ankhi Das on administrative leave to prevent any interference in the audit into Facebook’s role in amplifying hateful messages in India.

Clearly, the unpopular redesign of the website is far from the most insidious thing going on at Facebook at this moment.