Delhi riots: Assembly panel asks Facebook to submit records on users’ reports for 3 months

By: |
November 18, 2021 8:30 PM

Facebook is not a law enforcement agency but it has a mechanism to co-operate with such agencies whenever required.

A Delhi Assembly committee asked Facebook India on Thursday to furnish records of users’ reports (complaints) and action taken on the content posted on the platform one month prior and two months after the northeast Delhi riots in February 2020.

Hearing a representation by Shivnath Thukral, the public policy director of Facebook India (Meta Platforms), in the Assembly, chairman of the Peace and Harmony Committee Raghav Chadha asked for the records. He also quizzed the Facebook official regarding the organisational structure, the complaints redressal mechanism, community standards and hate speech definitions with respect to the social media giant.

Summonses were issued by the committee to Facebook India to put forward its views on the critical role of social media platforms in curbing the spread of false, provocative and malicious messages that can incite violence and disharmony.

In his opening statement, Thukral said “I want to address the recent global debate that is going on around our company. We believe that we should be scrutinised in good faith, criticism helps us get better. But we cannot be subjected to unfair trials based on selectively leaked documents which paint a false picture of our company.”

Facebook is not a law enforcement agency but it has a mechanism to co-operate with such agencies whenever required, he said during the hearing, adding, “When things happen in the real world, they reflect on our platform as well. We do not want hate on our platform. There are some bad actors that need to be worked on.” Thukral said Facebook has 40,000 people working on content management, including 15,000 dealing with content moderation. Any content found against the community standards followed by the platform is taken down immediately, he added.

In response to questions asked by the committee members in reference to the Delhi riots on February 2020, the executive refused to comment, saying it was a matter of law and order as well as an ongoing investigation. As the Facebook official refused to comment on particular questions, citing limits of Supreme Court directions, Chadha quoted the same to say that he can not “stonewall and frustrate” the members of the committee. The Supreme Court, in the ‘Ajit Mohan & Ors. V. Legislative Assembly, NCT of Delhi’ case, had upheld the powers of the committee to summon both members and non-members, including representatives of Facebook, in its hearing.

A statement of the committee later stated, “During the hearing, the official on behalf of Facebook India acknowledged that their tools are not always perfect and there are scope of improvements.” Chadha tried to probe Thukral regarding a host of issues while focusing on India-specific definition of “hate speech” and ways that Facebook used to deal with fake news and organised disinformation campaign.

Thukral said the platform has 10 fact checking partners in India who cover content in 11 languages out of 20. Besides, there are machine tools as well as independent social organisations which help tackle problematic content and take action against it.

The committee specifically enquired about the hierarchy and organisational structure of Facebook India and sought details about it as well as various teams and their recruitment processes. Chadha opined that in order to prevent a “chaotic situation and societal disharmony, a social media platform as big as Facebook can be extremely pivotal in diffusing the violent situations in a diverse and multicultural society as India”, said the statement.

Thukral said Facebook tackles issues of hate speech and misinformation head on. “Our programs are industry leading. We’ve invested USD 13 billion since 2016 and have over 40,000 people to do just one job, keep people safe on our platforms. We are continuously building tools or make product changes to curb the spread of problematic content,” he said.

The committee took views of the representative of Facebook India on record in order to formulate and recommend preventive and remedial measures concerning issues of governance, social cohesion, unity and peace.
It will further deliberate and decide on recalling Facebook officials for another round of proceeding and examination, Chadha said.

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