How can you stop the mobocracy in India?
Digital communication among fellow students: That was the idea of Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg and his friends, born out of late night beers.
The euphoria after the founding of Facebook in February 2004 convinced the venture capitalists. 14 years later, there are more than two billion Facebook users worldwide. Via the group subsidiary WhatsApp, they send around 60 billion messages every day.
But Zuckerberg's carefree initial motto “Move fast, break things” has long since become a global nightmare. The 33-year-old from the state of New York feels like Goethe's apprentice sorcerer: "I can't get rid of those I called, the ghosts!"
Because Facebook is increasingly being misused for political propaganda, racist agitation and direct calls for violence.
Zuckerberg takes no responsibility
Zuckerberg and his colleagues deny any journalistic responsibility. You see Facebook as a pure service provider. In fact, they have no idea how to stop the increasingly anti-democratic arsonists while maintaining freedom of expression and speech.
Russian trolls and secret services influence the American presidential elections via Facebook.
Right-wing financiers like the US billionaire Robert Mercer and the populist Steve Bannon obtained the personal data of millions of Facebook users through the company Cambridge Analytica.
American hate websites like «Infowars» spread their anti-Semitic propaganda undisturbed.
And now Facebook is being blamed for lynchings and crimes against humanity in India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Facebook should have been warned
On February 25, 2018, the Sinhalese Buddhist Ajith Kumarasiri wrote on Facebook that in Muslim restaurants in the Sri Lankan town of Ampara, sterilization pills were deliberately mixed into the food of Buddhist customers.
Just a few days later, angry Sinhalese killed the first Muslims and burned down their restaurants. It took months before Facebook India was even ready to respond to calls for help from the Sri Lankan authorities.
Facebook should have been warned! A year and a half earlier, Buddhist extremists in Myanmar had fueled hatred against the Rohingya Muslim minority on Facebook. A million people fled to Bangladesh.
The danger of "mobocracy"
There are 200 million Facebook users in India - more than any other country and the only source of information for many. Outraged citizens use the social media platform to organize orgies of lynching against alleged child molesters and Muslim cattle butchers. With dead, injured and new haters on both sides. India's chief judge Dipak Misra only recently warned of the danger of “mobocracy”.
Western democracies are not immune to the creeping poison of social media either. Every naked female breast is rigorously censored on Facebook. Right-wing populist and right-wing extremist content has it easier: A lot of fake news and racist and inflammatory thoughts are exchanged with like-minded people with impunity in closed chat rooms: where there is no plaintiff, jurisprudence knows there is no judge.
Nothing has happened so far
The online commentary columns of leading German newspapers show where this is leading. The proportion of anti-Semitic hatred reactions there has exploded from under eight to over 30 percent within a decade.
Mark Zuckerberg has been quoted before the US Senate and the European Parliament in the past few months. Each time the multi-billionaire was contrite and vowed to get better in the fight against fake news and hate reports.
But little has happened so far. Because Zuckerberg lost control of his algorithms a long time ago. And there are some things he doesn't want to change anyway.
Anti-Semitic agitation and even denial of the Holocaust should continue to be allowed on Facebook, he said in an interview recently. One simply has to come to terms with the fact that “there are many people who see facts and events wrong”.
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