Clock ticking for TikTok as US lawmakers pile on the pressure

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Updated 17 March 2024
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Clock ticking for TikTok as US lawmakers pile on the pressure

Clock ticking for TikTok as US lawmakers pile on the pressure
  • If a US bill is signed into law, ByteDance will be forced to sell the app to an American company within six months
  • Social-video platform faces bans, boycotts and scrutiny of its handling of user data, criticism about its influence

LONDON/DUBAI: Just days after the US House of Representatives passed a bill that, if signed into law, would force the China-based owner of TikTok to sell the video-sharing app, the fate of the company’s US operations hangs in the balance.

If the Senate also passes the bill and President Joe Biden signs it into law, ByteDance would have to sell TikTok to an American company within six months or the app will be banned in the US.

Such a law “will take billions of dollars out of the pockets of creators and small businesses” and put more than 30,000 American jobs at risk, said TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.




CaptionTikTok's CEO Shou Zi Chew testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on online child sexual exploitation at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 31, 2024. (REUTERS)

The House vote is only the latest setback in a string of bad news for TikTok, which has faced government bans, boycotts, scrutiny of its handling of sensitive user data and criticism about its influence on users in a number of important markets.

Many countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France and Taiwan, have prohibited the use of TikTok app on the work phones of government employees over privacy and cybersecurity concerns.

INNUMBERS

• US has the largest TikTok audience by far, with almost 150 million users engaging with it as of January 2024.

• Indonesia has around 126 million TikTok users.

• Brazil comes in third with almost 99 million users.

Source: Statista

In June 2020, India banned the use of the app nationwide after a deadly clash on the India-China border, depriving 200 million users access to the app almost overnight. In November last year, Nepal announced a full ban on TikTok in the country, saying that the app was “detrimental to social harmony.”

Late last year, calls to boycott TikTok in Saudi Arabia intensified after a campaign accused the platform of unjustly censoring and banning Saudi accounts expressing positive views about the Kingdom.

Many users turned to alternative social platforms to denounce TikTok’s alleged restriction of pro-Saudi content, with the trending hashtag #BoycottTikTok accompanied by posts urging Saudis to delete the app.

In an effort to rebuild trust, TikTok launched a dedicated hashtag page for Saudi content on its platform.

This year, TikTok reported having 26 million active users in Saudi Arabia, positioning it as the second most popular social platform after YouTube. Preliminary data indicated that last year’s boycott resulted in a decline in the number of Saudi TikTok users.

Social media personalities and celebrities including Emirati artist Ahlam supported the boycott by Saudi TikTok users. The private sector joined in as well, with social media news channel The Saudi Post closing its accounts on the platform.

Citing a source close to the Saudi First Division League earlier in November 2023, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that the second tier of professional football in Saudi Arabia had severed its relationship with TikTok due to the platform’s alleged actions against Saudi content.

TikTok denied the allegations it had restricted Saudi content and dismissed the boycott campaign as a “coordinated action.”

The company said in a statement: “The rumors regarding TikTok removing content related to Saudi Arabia are not true. We strongly reject these allegations that are inconsistent with our policies and values.”

In December 2022, Jordan temporarily banned TikTok after a police officer was killed during clashes with protesters that broke out over high fuel prices.

Videos of the protests flooded TikTok, resulting in the platform being temporarily banned due to concerns over users sharing fabricated videos and inciting violence.




Jordanian military personnel walk on December 16, 2022 in the southern city of Jerash in the funeral procession of a senior police officer who was killed in riots the previous day in southern Jordan. (AFP/File)

Jordan’s Public Security Directorate said that it was suspending the app “after its misuse and failing to deal with publications inciting violence and disorder.”

The temporary ban is still in effect, with many young users turning to VPN services to access the app.

Local media reports cited Abd Al-Hadi Al-Tahat, head of the Cybercrime Unit at the Public Security Directorate, as saying that the ban would remain until the platform fully complied with Jordanian regulations and laws.

During a talk at Yarmouk University titled “Visions of Modernization: Youth is the Focus of Concern,” the country’s prime minister, Bisher Al-Khasawneh, said one of the conditions for TikTok’s reactivation in the country is for the company to establish an office in Jordan or elsewhere in the region.

A TikTok spokesperson told Jordanian media outlet Roya that the platform is committed to improving and updating its safety policies and tools. However, it has yet to outline any specific measures.

Wednesday’s move by US lawmakers to pass legislation — with 352 votes in favor and just 65 against — that could ban TikTok in the US prompted an outcry among users and from the company itself.




Rep. Robert Garcia of California speaks outside Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 12, 2024, as he is joined by fellow Democratic congressmen and TikTok creators during a press conference to voice their opposition to the "Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act," which woul,d effective ban TikTok in the US. (REUTERS)

“This process was secret and the bill was jammed through for one reason: It’s a ban,” a TikTok spokesperson told Arab News.

“We are hopeful that the Senate will consider the facts, listen to their constituents and realize the impact on the economy — 7 million small businesses and the 170 million Americans who use our service.”

Denouncing the arguments behind the bill as “bandit logic,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Thursday that the US decision “runs contrary to the principles of fair competition and justice.”

He added: “When someone sees a good thing another person has and tries to take it for themselves, this is entirely the logic of a bandit.”




A man walks past a Tiktok booth during the Appliance & Electronics World Expo (AWE) in Shanghai on March 14, 2024. China on March 14, 2024 slammed the approval of a US bill that would ban TikTok unless it severs ties with its Chinese parent company, blasting Washington's "bandit" mentality and vowing Beijing would "take all necessary measures" to protect the interests of its companies overseas. (AFP)

Closer to home, Summer Lucille, founder and owner of a boutique in North Carolina, told US lawmakers: “You are voting against my small business. You are voting against me getting a slice of my American pie.”

Lucille began advertising on TikTok in 2022 and has since been able to expand her business significantly, a CNN report said.

Several other American business owners have echoed the sentiment. “Banning TikTok would shut down a lot of small businesses, including mine,” Brandon Hurst, a plant shop owner, told The Washington Post.

Gigi Gonzalez, a financial educator from Chicago, said that the ban would remove her biggest revenue source — a video host for brand deals, speaking opportunities and digital course sales.




Supporters of TikTok do a TV news interview at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on March 13, 2024, as the House of Representatives passed a bill that would lead to a nationwide ban of the popular video app if its China-based owner doesn't sell to an American owner. (AP Photo)

Before using TikTok, she had tried to reach people — unsuccessfully — through webinars. Now, Gonzalez reaches millions of people through TikTok, The Post was told.

Beyond its economic impact, a ban “would stifle free speech,” said Ashley Gorski, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.

“Under the First Amendment, we have the right to speak, to express ourselves, to receive information from others and to associate freely. And banning TikTok would implicate each of those rights.”

 

 

She added that the US government cannot impose such a ban unless it is the only way to “prevent extremely serious, significant and immediate harm to national security.”

However, “there’s no public evidence of that type of harm,” Gorski said, adding that even if national security is threatened, there are better options than an outright ban.

Nour Halabi, an assistant professor and interdisciplinary research fellow working on global media and politics at the University of Aberdeen, believes that the TikTok battle is rooted in “America’s political and economic rivalry with China.”

She told Arab News: “For a long time, scholars of media — especially digital media — have pointed to the imbalanced concentration of the world’s most powerful media platforms in the Global North and specifically in the US.

“The market share of American media platforms dominates the whole world’s digital media use to some extent. The rise of a media platform based in China challenges this primacy, so from an economic standpoint, it is a threat.”




Marcus Bridgewater tends to his backyard herbs and flower garden in Spring, Texas, on March 14, 2024. The TikTok content creator speaks with The Associated on how TikTok has transformed his life and the adverse effect a TikTok ban iwill have on his online space for gardening. (AP)

She added: “From a geopolitical standpoint, the conversation on TikTok echoes the political discourse around the ‘Al Jazeera effect’ in the 2000s, when American politicians showed concern that Americans would turn to foreign media outlets to get insight on political issues, and therefore the US would lose control of strategic narratives on key debates on domestic matters and foreign policy issues.”

Indeed, the eruption of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza in October last year has also placed TikTok at the center of another heated debate in the US, this time over the app’s perceived influence over young Americans.

As well as the Chinese ownership of the app, many Republican politicians have also cited the relative popularity of pro-Palestinian videos on the platform as justification for a nationwide ban.

TikTok creators and social media experts have responded by arguing that the platform merely offers content reflecting multiple sides of the debate, especially considering that the opinions of Americans on the Israel-Hamas war sharply differ by age.




Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene says she voted for a bill seeking to ban TikTok in the US unless the Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance sells the popular video app within the next six months. (Getty Images/AFP)

In November last year, TikTok prohibited content that publicized slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s 2002 letter outlining his justifications for attacks on the US.

“Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism,” TikTok said in a statement, but described reports that the 20-year-old letter was “trending” on the platform as inaccurate.

America may be trying to protect its global hegemony over digital media, as critics of a TikTok ban say. But US government officials warn that they are concerned over data collected by TikTok being used to threaten national security.

Although TikTok has repeatedly denied claims that it shares sensitive user data with the Chinese government, what fuels concerns in Washington is Beijing’s recent national security legislation that can compel private Chinese companies to aid in intelligence gathering.

Legislators fear that ByteDance may be — now or in the future — controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, thereby allowing the Chinese government to use the app to disseminate false information that interferes with US elections, especially at a time when Americans increasingly use TikTok for news.




A view shows the office of TikTok in Culver City, California. (REUTERS/File Photo)

Also, as TikTok’s critics frequently cite, internet users in China cannot access US-owned platforms like YouTube, X, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook.

Only time will if tell users and content producers can survive and do business in a TikTok-less America.

During previous attempts by the US government to force a sale of TikTok, when Donald Trump was in the White House, several American companies reportedly entered into talks with ByteDance to acquire TikTok’s US operations, only for the deals to stall.

Mamdouh Al-Muhaini, general manager of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath news channels, sees US lawmakers’ battle against TikTok as a “political drama” of their own creation, based on two arguments that “do not make sense and are not based on conclusive evidence.”

In a recent post on X, Al-Muhaini argued that TikTok is not alone among social media companies in collecting user data to inform algorithms.

“This is what all platforms do, including Facebook, Twitter (X) and Instagram,” Al-Muhaini said, adding that no evidence has been provided to back the claim that the Chinese government has used TikTok to spy on US or Western government institutions.

 


Israel revokes order to cut AP live Gaza video feed

Israel revokes order to cut AP live Gaza video feed
Updated 22 May 2024
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Israel revokes order to cut AP live Gaza video feed

Israel revokes order to cut AP live Gaza video feed

JERUSALEM: Israel walked back its decision to shut down an Associated Press live video feed of war-torn Gaza on Tuesday, following a protest from the US news agency and concern from the White House.
Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said he had revoked an earlier order that accused the AP of breaching a new ban on providing rolling footage of Gaza to Qatar-based satellite channel Al Jazeera.
“I have now ordered to cancel the operation and return the equipment to the AP agency,” Karhi said in a statement, after Washington called on Israel to reverse the move.
“We’ve been engaging directly with the government of Israel to express our concerns over this action and to ask them to reverse it,” a White House spokesperson said.
Karhi’s original order earlier Tuesday said communications ministry inspectors had “confiscated the equipment” of AP on orders approved by the government “in accordance with the law.”
The AP said Israeli officials had seized its camera and broadcasting equipment at a location in the Israeli town of Sderot that overlooks the northern Gaza Strip.
In a statement issued after the order the news agency said it “decries in the strongest terms” the move by the Israeli government.
Reacting after Israeli officials ordered the equipment to be returned, it added: “While we are pleased with this development, we remain concerned about the Israeli government’s use of the foreign broadcaster law and the ability of independent journalists to operate freely in Israel.”
AP said Al Jazeera was among thousands of clients that receive live video feeds from the agency.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said the government “went crazy.”
“This is not Al Jazeera, this is an American media outlet that has won 53 Pulitzer Prizes,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
AFP global news director Phil Chetwynd said Israel’s initial order was “an attack on press freedom.”
“The free flow of verified information and images from reliable sources is vital in the current highly-charged context,” he said in a statement.
“We would urge the authorities to immediately reverse this decision and to allow all journalists to work freely and without hindrance.”
The United Nations said it was “shocking.”
“The Associated Press, of all news organizations, should be allowed to do its work freely and free of any harassment,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera was taken off the air in Israel this month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government voted to shut it down over its coverage of the Gaza war.
Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem offices were shuttered, its equipment confiscated and its team’s accreditations pulled.
The AP said communications ministry officials arrived at its location in Sderot on Tuesday afternoon and seized the equipment.
It said officials had handed the AP a piece of paper, signed by the communications minister, alleging it was violating the country’s new foreign broadcast law.
The ministry later confirmed the incident.
It said the US news agency regularly took images of Gaza from the balcony of a house in Sderot, “including focusing on the activities of IDF (army) soldiers and their location.”
“Even though the inspectors of the Ministry of Communications warned them that they were breaking the law and that they should cut off Al Jazeera from receiving their content and not transfer a broadcast to Al Jazeera, they continued to do so,” it said.
The AP said it had been broadcasting a general view of northern Gaza before its equipment was seized, and that the live feed has generally shown smoke rising over the Palestinian territory.
“The AP complies with Israel’s military censorship rules, which prohibit broadcasts of details like troops movements that could endanger soldiers,” the agency added.
The Foreign Press Association in Israel said it was “alarmed” by the confiscation of the AP’s equipment, calling it “a slippery slope.”
It denounced Israel’s “dismal” record on press freedom during the Gaza war, and called the move against AP “outrageous censorship.”
In the 2024 press freedom index by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Israel ranked 101st out of 180 countries — dropping four positions from the previous year.
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Hamas also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,647 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.


Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds

Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds
Updated 21 May 2024
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Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds

Palestinian detainees ‘tortured’ in Israeli hospitals, BBC investigation finds
  • Patients are kept shackled to hospital beds, blindfolded, naked, forced to wear diapers
  • Probe recalls report alleging violation of detainees’ health rights as act of revenge

LONDON: A BBC investigation has revealed that Palestinian detainees from Gaza are “routinely tortured” in Israeli hospitals.

According to medical workers and whistleblowers interviewed by the broadcaster, detainees are kept shackled to hospital beds, blindfolded, sometimes naked, and forced to wear diapers.

Some in need of surgery and other medical procedures are denied painkillers, causing “an unacceptable amount of pain.”

Testimonies indicated that critically-ill patients held in makeshift military facilities are denied proper treatment due to public hospitals’ reluctance to transfer and treat them.

The Israeli army has denied the allegations, asserting that detainees at the facility in question were treated “appropriately and carefully.”

Yossi Walfisch, the head of the country’s Medical Ethics Board, said in a letter: “Terrorists are given proper medical treatment with the aim of keeping restraints to a minimum, and while maintaining the safety of the treating staff.”

The investigation detailed various episodes of mistreatment, which were described in some testimonies as “a deliberate act of revenge.”

In one instance, a detainee had his leg amputated after being denied treatment for an infected wound.

In another, a doctor refused to administer painkillers to an elderly patient while treating an infected amputation wound.

Senior anesthesiologist Yoel Donchin confirmed that patients at Sde Teiman hospital were kept blindfolded and permanently shackled to their beds, while forced to wear diapers instead of being allowed to use toilets.

Donchin argued that the practice could cause long-term nerve damage and admitted to performing surgical procedures on handcuffed patients due to a lack of alternatives.

Despite complaints from medical staff, only minor changes have been implemented.

An army spokesperson said that violence against detainees was “absolutely prohibited” and promised to investigate the allegations.

The revelations recall a report in February by Physicians for Human Rights Israel, which described Israel’s civilian and military prisons as “an apparatus of retribution and revenge,” violating detainees’ human rights, particularly their right to health.

In March, following a similar BBC investigation into alleged abuse and torture by the Israeli army at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, the UK government called for an “investigation and explanation” into the allegations.

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities
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Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders

Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders
Updated 21 May 2024
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Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders

Media watchdog ‘welcomes’ arrest warrants for Hamas and Israeli leaders
  • ICC’s action is a promise to end impunity for the deaths of journalists, says Committee to Protect Journalists

LONDON: The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the International Criminal Court’s announcement on Monday that it was seeking arrest warrants for leaders of both Hamas and Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh might face prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“The ICC’s application for arrest warrants for crimes against humanity in Israel and Palestine recognizes atrocities committed against civilians,” said CPJ CEO Jodie Ginsberg.

“The civilian deaths include an unprecedented number of journalists killed since Oct. 7. The ICC’s action is a promise for an end to the impunity that has historically plagued the killing and persecution of those who write the first draft of history.”

Over 100 journalists and media workers have been killed since the beginning of the conflict last October, the vast majority of them in Gaza by Israeli forces.

CPJ reported that the conflict has claimed the lives of more journalists in three months than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year since record-keeping began, underscoring the tragic toll this war has had on journalists.

The watchdog, along with corroborating investigations by Reuters, AFP, and Human Rights Watch, has documented at least three instances of journalists killed by Israeli forces that involved deliberate targeting.

An additional 10 cases may also involve deliberate targeting, which, according to international law, could constitute war crimes.

CPJ has urged the ICC to investigate these killings and called on Israel to grant investigators unrestricted access to Gaza, highlighting a disturbing pattern of systematic killings of Palestinian journalists that have consistently gone unpunished.

The announcement of potential arrest warrants for Netanyahu was met with strong reactions.

Netanyahu called the decision “a moral outrage of historic proportions,” while US President Joe Biden rejected the ICC’s application altogether, adding that “there’s no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.”


Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others

Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others
Updated 21 May 2024
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Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others

Meta Oversight Board set to rule on ‘genocide’ video case, two others
  • Meta submitted cases as part of goal to create policy on criminal allegations based on nationality
  • Decision to help Meta better navigate critical questions at a crucial time, board spokesperson told Arab News

LONDON: The Meta Oversight Board announced on Tuesday that it is reviewing three cases, including one involving a user accusing Israel of committing “genocide” and another concerning a Facebook comment in Arabic.

Meta, which submitted the cases as part of its review system aimed at creating a policy on criminal allegations based on nationality, said it removed the posts for breaching its Hate Speech Community Standards.

The first case involves a user’s reply on Threads, featuring a video that includes accusations of “genocide” and claims that “Israelis are criminals.”

The other two cases involve a December speech in which a user called all Russians and Americans “criminals” and a recent post in which a user stated that “all Indians are rapists.”

An Oversight Board spokesperson told Arab News: “Tensions in the region, and increasingly around the world, are dominating the discussion online.

“It’s vitally important that when looking at these issues, Meta gets the balance right and works to protect safety, without unduly limiting the ability of people to speak out about the abuses they see or the frustration they experience.”

The spokesperson added that while the board cannot review every appeal, it selects those of critical importance to public discourse “to help Meta better navigate these critical questions at a crucial time.”

Meta said the three posts were removed after human review for “targeting people with criminal allegations based on nationality.”

Despite its decision, Meta referred the cases to the Oversight Board to address the challenge of handling criminal allegations directed at people based on their nationality, as they might be interpreted as attacks on a nation’s policies.

The board’s decision to review these cases comes as social media platforms have seen an uptick in violent, hateful, and misleading content since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza last October.

The Oversight Board reported a nearly 2,000 percent increase in appeals from the region in the first three weeks after Oct. 7, with many complaints about content inciting violence and promoting hate speech.

The moderators have called for public comments addressing the platform’s hate speech policy in relation to users’ ability to speak out against state actions during times of conflict and Meta’s human rights responsibilities in relation to content targeting users based on nationality.

They also requested insights into potential criteria for determining whether a user is targeting a concept or institution rather than people based on nationality.

In the coming weeks, the board members will deliberate on the cases.

Facebook and its parent company Meta have previously been accused of deliberately censoring pro-Palestine content. Human Rights Watch stated last December that Meta routinely engages in “six key patterns of undue censorship” of pro-Palestine posts.

Recently, the board introduced a new 30-day expedited review mechanism and will rule on whether the pro-Palestinian phrase “from the river to the sea” is considered “acceptable” speech.

In April, the board overturned Meta’s decision to leave up a Facebook post claiming that Hamas originated from the population of Gaza, comparing them to a “savage horde,” leading Meta to take the post down.


Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India

Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India
Updated 20 May 2024
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Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India

Report: Meta approved anti-Muslim political ads in India
  • ICWI and Eko found Meta’s system failed to detect prohibited content in most cases
  • Indian election sees surge in anti-Muslim, Hindu supremacist sentiment

LONDON: Tech giant Meta approved political advertisements on its platforms inciting violence and hate speech during India’s general election, a report released on Monday revealed.

The investigation, conducted by non-sectarian diasporic organization India Civil Watch International and corporate watchdog Eko, found that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, allowed AI-manipulated political ads that spread disinformation and incited religious violence, particularly targeting Muslims.

The report found that Meta’s system failed to prohibit a series of inflammatory ads designed to mimic real-life scenarios, uploaded by ICWI and Eko.

The ads, submitted to Meta’s ad library, contained slurs towards Muslims in India, such as “let’s burn this vermin” and “Hindu blood is spilling, these invaders must be burned.”

Another ad featured Hindu supremacist language and false claims about political leaders, including an opposition leader allegedly wanting to “erase Hindus from India” and calling for their execution.

According to the report, all of the adverts “were created based upon real hate speech and disinformation prevalent in India, underscoring the capacity of social media platforms to amplify existing harmful narratives.”

Out of 22 ads submitted in English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati and Kannada, 14 were approved by Meta, while a further three were approved after minor tweaks that did not alter the overall provocative messaging.

Only five ads were rejected for violating Meta’s community standards on hate speech and violence.

The ads, which largely targeted Muslims, were immediately removed after approval by ICWI and Eko.

The organizations accused Meta of profiting from hate speech and failing to uphold its pledge to prevent AI-generated or manipulated content from spreading on its platforms during the Indian election.

Campaign spending for India’s elections, the largest and longest in the world, is estimated to reach $16 billion.

The report also claims that the approved ads violated India’s election rules, which ban election-related content 48 hours before polling begins and during voting.

Meta, which requires vetting approval for accounts running political ads, had already faced controversy during this year’s Indian elections.

A previous report by ICWI and Eko found that surrogate or “shadow” accounts aligned with political parties paid vast sums of money to disseminate unauthorized political ads on platforms.

Some approved accounts for running political ads were even up for sale in public Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members.

Many of these real ads endorsed Islamophobic tropes and Hindu supremacist narratives.

The tech giant has struggled for years with the spread of Islamophobic content on its platforms, raising concerns about Meta’s ability to enforce its policies and control the situation amid rising anti-Muslim sentiment in India.