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Parl panel plans to summon FB amid reports alleging bias towards BJP

By Sai Ishwar
August 17, 2020 12:38 IST
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After a report mentioned that Facebook overlooked its hate speech policies in cases of BJP MLA T Raja Singh and 3 others, Shashi Tharoor, chairperson of Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT, said the committee 'would certainly wish to hear from Facebook'. Sai Ishwar reports.

 

Illustration: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology said on Sunday that it would seek Facebook's response on the allegations that the social media giant ignored hate speeches to protect its India business.

'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,' Shashi Tharoor, the committee's chairperson and senior Congress party leader, tweeted on Sunday.

He went on to add that the subject was squarely within the IT committee's mandate and Facebook had been summoned in the past as well.

'The committee will consider testimony under the topic --  safeguarding citizens' rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms,' Tharoor said.

A report by The Wall Street Journal on Saturday mentioned that Facebook overlooked its hate speech policies in the cases of Telangana Bharatiya Janata Party MLA T Raja Singh and three other 'Hindu nationalist individuals and groups' in order to safeguard the social media platform’s business prospects.

It also stated that one of Facebook's top public policy executives in India 'opposed applying hate-speech rules' to individuals linked with the BJP even though they were 'flagged internally for promoting violence'.

In response to the development, Facebook said: 'We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence, and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone's political position or party affiliation.

'While we know there is more to do, we’re making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy.'

Facebook has been under the government’s radar for quite some time, to quell the menace of fake news and hate speech.

India is the largest user base for Facebook globally with over 300 million users while its messaging platform WhatsApp also has around 450 million users in the country.

The issue also resulted in a war of words between Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, on Twitter.

'BJP & RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) control Facebook and WhatsApp in India. They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook,' Gandhi tweeted.

'Losers, who cannot influence people even in their own party, keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP & RSS. You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica & Facebook to weaponise data before the elections & now have the gall to question us?' Prasad responded.

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Sai Ishwar
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