Can Facebook Help Empower Women in India?

A question about fake accounts on Facebook led co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to offer his thoughts on what he perceives as a “social issue” in India.

MarkZuckerbergQABarcelona03042015A question about fake accounts on Facebook led co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to offer his thoughts on what he perceives as a “social issue” in India.

Zuckerberg hosted a town-hall question-and-answer session (embedded below) in Barcelona, Spain, where he attended Mobile World Congress, and one of the questions involved fake accounts on the social network. He replied:

We have a specific issue that we’ve seen in India and a few other countries. In most countries around the world, what we see is that the number of people who use Facebook, if you split it by men and women, is about equal. In most countries, there may be a handful more women, because women tend to be a larger portion of the population.

In India, we actually see this issue where it’s imbalanced, and there are many more men who are on the Internet than women. This is actually a pretty big social issue broadly. There’s a lot of research that shows that empowering women in all countries around the world is really important for economic growth, spreading peace and all kinds of social progress. I think the fact that we aren’t at that state in India today is a social issue that Facebook can help work on. We now have specific teams that are working on this.

There are issues that we see where, for example, if a woman creates a profile in India, sometimes someone will create a fake profile and mimic that woman, and then create issues, which is something that we are working on specific ways to get more feedback from the community to be able to address the issue of fake profiles more quickly, especially in India, where this is such a sensitive thing.

Unfortunately, the culture needs to evolve. Right now, a lot of what we hear back in feedback is that some women are afraid to set up profiles because they get blamed for what happens if someone impersonates their profile. The saying that we kind of heard when we traveled to India and talked to people is that, “You can’t clap without two hands,” somehow insinuating that maybe it’s the woman’s fault if she puts up a profile and it gets copied and spoofed, which obviously is a completely backward attitude and is really wrong. It’s no one’s fault if someone is trying to defraud them or do something bad to them.

We are basically taking a lot of steps to be able to detect this more easily and make sure that we respond very quickly. We think that this is a really important issue and one that is going to be really important for the social development in a lot of countries around the world. This is something that we take very seriously.

Readers: What did you think of Zuckerberg’s comments? David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.