Mr Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice-president of policy solutions, admitted to Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong that they “made a mistake” by not removing a post that incited racial hatred in Sri Lanka, during an international hearing.
The hearing, on fake news and disinformation, was held in London heard on Tuesday, November 27.
Along with Mr Tong were two fellow Members of Parliament from Singapore, Workers’ Party Secretary-General Pritam Singh and Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of National Development
According to the questions Mr Tong asked at the hearing, the post was written in Sinhalese in March, and it called for the killing of all Muslims. Mr Tong then asked Mr Allan if the post breached the social media company’s terms of service, to which Mr Allan agreed.
When asked by Mr Tong asked why Facebook refused to take down the post even after it was highlighted by Sri Lanka’s communications minister, Mr Allan replied that it was a “simple error”.
Mr Allan disagreed when Mr Tong pushed the issue. The former continued, “That was a mistake”. “I just want to be clear that somebody has made a mistake in the review,” he said.
“We make mistakes … serious mistakes; our responsibility is to reduce the number of mistakes,” he added.
Netizens online shared many videos of the dialogue between Mr Tong and Mr Allan, saying, “SMS Edwin Tong was amongst MPs from 8 countries at the hearing in London. He held his own, the MP to his left was nodding away, looking decidedly impressed. He He asked pointed questions and demolished Facebook’s credibility. Richard Allan, FB VP of Policy Solutions said at the end that he is ‘ashamed’ of the non-action by FB”.
The post in question was only completely removed from circulation after the Sri Lankan government blocked Facebook.
Mr Tong told Mr Allan that there are several other cases such as the one in Sri Lanka, and added that they “should not be allowed to happen ever”.
Mr Allan agreed saying, “No, and as an employee of Facebook I am ashamed that things like this happen and they do and they shouldn’t.”
Many Singaporeans who commented online on the issue felt that Mr Tong was unnecessarily harsh because Facebook and Mr Allan admitted their mistake.