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Meta allowed AI-generated anti-Muslim ads during India election

May 22, 2024 at 10:39 am

In this photo illustration, Meta logo is being displayed on a mobile phone screen in front of computer screen with the logo of Meta in Ankara, Turkiye on December 07, 2023 [Ahmet Serdar Eser – Anadolu Agency]

Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, approved AI-manipulated political advertisements inciting violence and spreading disinformation during India’s election, according to a report shared with the Guardian.

The investigation by India Civil Watch International (ICWI) and corporate watchdog Ekō revealed that the tech giant allowed inflammatory ads targeting Muslims. These ads, submitted to test Meta’s detection systems, included slurs such as “let’s burn this vermin” and “Hindu blood is spilling, these invaders must be burned,” alongside false claims about political leaders.

One ad falsely accused an opposition leader of wanting to “erase Hindus from India” and called for their execution. The report revealed that Meta’s system was unable to block a series of inflammatory ads, which were designed to mimic real-life scenarios and uploaded by ICWI and Eko.

Of the 22 ads submitted in multiple languages, 14 were approved by Meta. After minor tweaks, a further three were also approved. Eventually, all approved ads were immediately removed by ICWI and Ekō. Meta’s systems failed to detect the AI-manipulated images, despite the company’s pledge to prevent such content during the election.

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Ekō campaigner Maen Hammad accused Meta of profiting from hate speech. “Supremacists, racists and autocrats know they can use hyper-targeted ads to spread vile hate speech… and Meta will gladly take their money, no questions asked,” he said.

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

A Meta spokesperson insisted that ads must comply with laws and community standards, stating that ads about elections or politics “must go through the authorisation process required on our platforms and are responsible for complying with all applicable laws.”

The company has been criticised previously for failing to stop the spread of Islamophobic hate speech, calls to violence, and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories on its platforms in India. In some instances, these posts have led to real-life riots and lynchings.