Parliamentary panel ‘discussion’ with Facebook to continue: Shashi Tharoor

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September 2, 2020 9:30 PM

Tharoor's earlier announcement that the panel would like to hear from Facebook about a report published in the Wall Street Journal claiming that the social media platform ignored applying its hate-speech rules to politicians of the BJP in India, had evoked a strong reaction from BJP members of the panel.

Facebook’s India head Ajit Mohan appeared before the panel amid a political slugfest with both BJP and Congress accusing each other of colluding with the social media giant to influence opinion.

A Parliamentary panel looking into alleged misuse of social media platforms has decided to continue its “discussion” with representatives of global giant Facebook, after a meeting that lasted for almost three and half hours on Wednesday, its chairman and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said.

Facebook’s India head Ajit Mohan appeared before the panel amid a political slugfest with both BJP and Congress accusing each other of colluding with the social media giant to influence opinion. Besides Mohan, whose deposition lasted for more than two hours, some government officials and a few experts also deposed before the panel, sources said.

While details of Mohan’s deposition and other deliberations could not be ascertained immediately, Tharoor tweeted after the meeting that the panel decided to resume the discussion, including with representatives of Facebook. “In response to overwhelming media interest in the meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology that just adjourned, this is all I can say: We met for some three and a half hours and unanimously agreed to resume the discussion later, incl with reps of Facebook,” he tweeted.

While the Congress MP from Kerala did not disclose any further details, sources said one suggestion was made to schedule the next meeting for resuming the deposition of Facebook on September 10, but a consensus could not be reached with some members objecting to it on the ground that the committee is to be reconstituted.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, headed by Tharoor, had called representatives of Facebook to hear their views “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,” according to agenda of the meeting.

Tharoor’s earlier announcement that the panel would like to hear from Facebook about a report published in the Wall Street Journal claiming that the social media platform ignored applying its hate-speech rules to politicians of the BJP in India, had evoked a strong reaction from BJP members of the panel.

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey had alleged that the Congress leader has been using the panel’s platform to further his and his party’s political agenda and even demanded his removal as chairman. A source said the leaders who were earlier opposed to calling Facebook representatives before the panel also actively participated in the discussions and asked a host of questions from representatives of the social media giant.

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