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Delhi Assembly panel begins Facebook hearing, to summon officials

Facebook officials will be called soon to depose before the committee, chairman of the committee Raghav Chadha said. He said the matter is being heard as he had received multiple complaints in this regard, particularly after a Wall Street Journal article dated August 14.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Updated: August 26, 2020 8:36:26 am
AAP MLA Raghav Chadha heads the panel

The Delhi Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony Tuesday examined journalist author Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa — called in as “expert witnesses” in the matter of Facebook’s alleged “intentional and deliberate inaction” with regard to “inflammatory and hateful” content on its platform and their alleged nexus with the BJP.

Facebook officials will be called soon to depose before the committee, chairman of the committee Raghav Chadha said. He said the matter is being heard as he had received multiple complaints in this regard, particularly after a Wall Street Journal article dated August 14.

Both Thakurta and Pahwa put forward the view that Facebook was “not as agnostic and content neutral as it claims to be” and there was “some circumstantial evidence which does reflect collusion between Facebook and the present BJP government”. They said an independent inquiry is required to probe its role in connection with the Delhi riots, and its alleged inaction on hateful posts.

“The committee under the chairmanship of Raghav Chadha, after carefully deliberating upon the deposition of the witnesses, decided that the Facebook officials concerned should be summoned to render explanation with regards to the allegations as well as the depositions,” the Delhi government said in a statement.

“The committee believes that this is a direct assault on Indian democracy as this alleged nexus might compromise on free and fair elections in the country. Hence, the committee will soon issue notices to top officials of Facebook with a view to examine them on record,” it added.

In response to queries by The Indian Express, a Facebook India official sent a blog post by the managing director and vice-president Ajit Mohan. In it, he said, “Facebook is and always has been an open, transparent and non-partisan platform where people can express themselves freely.

“Over the last few days, we have been accused of bias in the way we enforce our policies. We take allegations of bias incredibly seriously, and want to make it clear that we denounce hate and bigotry in any form.”

He also said Facebook had “removed and will continue to remove content posted by public figures in India when it violates our Community Standards”.

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