Facebook representatives have been summoned by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology in a row over a US media report that claims that the social networking site deliberately ignored incendiary content from members of the ruling BJP and right-wing voices that was “flagged internally”.
The panel — headed by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor — will hear the Facebook representatives on September 2. The notice came in the middle of a battle within the Standing Committee, with two BJP members calling for the removal of Mr Tharoor from the post of the panel chief.
Earlier on Thursday, Union minister Rajyavardhan Rathore and the BJP’s Nishikant Dubey — both members of the panel — wrote to the Lok Sabha Speaker.
The BJP leaders have alleged that Mr Tharoor has broken rules by tweeting his intention to summon Facebook before the panel without discussing it with the members. Mr Dubey, who has already issued a notice for breach of privilege against Mr Tharoor in response to a similar move from him — called for his removal from the panel post.
A notification from the Lok Sabha Secretariat sent out on Thursday evening read: “To hear the views of the representatives of Facebook on the subject ‘Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space”.
Besides representatives of Facebook, the committee has also asked representatives of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to remain present on September 2 to discuss on the subject of “safeguarding citizens” rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space”.
The political battle between the BJP and the Congress had started over the weekend as Rahul Gandhi tweeted a Wall Street Journal report which claimed that Facebook deliberately ignored disruptive content from members of the ruling BJP and right-wing groups even after the issue was flagged internally by Mark Zuckerberg.
Quoting unnamed Facebook insiders, the report claimed that a senior Facebook India policy executive, Ankhi Das, had refused to ban a BJP MLA from Telangana despite his divisive posts,
On Sunday, after Rahul Gandhi tweeted the WSJ report, Shashi Tharoor posted: “The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from @Facebook about these reports and what they propose to do about hate-speech in India.”
The panel, he said, would consider a testimony under the topic “Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”. It brought a retort from Mr Dubey, who accused Mr Tharoor of not only breaking rules but also following the Congress agenda.