Representatives of the social media giant Facebook are expected to appear before a parliamentary committee on Wednesday (September 2) amid a controversy over accusations by Wall Street Journal that Facebook ignored hate speech posted by leaders of the BJP and right-wing groups.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology chaired by Congress’ Shashi Tharoor had asked Facebook India to answer questions raised by the WSJ article.
A notification on the meeting was sent by the Lok Sabha Secretariat last month. Besides representatives of Facebook, the committee had also asked representatives of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to remain present.
As part of a political slanging match on Tuesday, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, alleging that employees of the social media giant “are on record abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior cabinet ministers”.
The Congress has demanded an investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee. “If Modi Govt has an iota of credibility, why doesn’t it agree to a JPC probe into the shameless collusion between #Facebook India & BJP. Why are u running scared?” tweeted senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala.
The WSJ report last month said that Facebook did not apply hate speech rules on members of the ruling BJP and right-wing groups even after the issue was flagged internally. The report also claimed that a senior Facebook India policy executive, Ankhi Das, had told staff that applying hate-speech rules to politicians close to the ruling party “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country.”
In another report, WSJ said Ankhi Das “made internal postings over several years” on her support for the ruling BJP and disparaging Congress.
Facebook has more than 300 million users in India. It says its social media platform prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence and these policies are enforced globally without regard to political affiliation.
Tharoor has said the parliamentary panel will consider getting testimony from Facebook executives. The topic, he said, would be “safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”.
The BJP members on the panel had strongly objected to a tweet by Tharoor and accused him of “flouting rules” to push Congress agenda and demanded his removal.