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    Facebook India chief appears before parliamentary panel; Opposition, BJP MPs allege bias

    Synopsis

    Some MPs from opposition parties cited IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg and demanded that the government should bring a Bill to regulate social media sites.

    Facebook: FB India chief Ajit Mohan appears before Parliamentary panel
    NEW DELHI: BJP and Opposition MPs on Wednesday slammed Facebook representatives in a meeting of the Standing Committee on Information Technology for allowing display of hate content on its site, a charge the social media group denied saying it is neutral towards all parties.

    Some MPs from opposition parties cited IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's letter to Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg and demanded that the government should bring a Bill to regulate social media sites.

    A team of Facebook representatives, led by its India head Ajit Mohan, deposed before the Shashi Tharoor-led IT Standing Committee and were questioned for over two hours. Sources said BJP members asked Mohan about his relations with the Congress and accused Facebook of having employees with Left leanings.

    Mohan clarified that he was never a member of the Congress and as a professional his services are available to all parties. He maintained that he had worked for a multinational company on a project involving suggestions to the Kerala government on urban development.

    Opposition members posed questions on several incidents where hate speech and objectionable videos were posted on Facebook and are still there despite concerns and requests posed by people. Cases cited by these members include the flogging of Dalits in Una and the remarks made by BJP Telangana MLA T Raja Singh, a hate speech made by BJP West Bengal MP Arjun Singh, a hate speech by Bajrang Dal in Delhi during the recent riots and so on.

    Some members accused Facebook of removing videos of anti-CAA protests to favour the government.

    Members of the committee were not convinced with Facebook’s reply that some of the objectionable content has been taken down, arguing that in many cases the damage is already done or removing content may lead to loss of evidence. Instead the company should cooperate in taking appropriate legal action.

    Sources said Facebook replied that it has outsourced fact-checking to a third party and takes a call based on their input. Mohan also informed the committee that some of the “community standards” of his company are in conflict with Indian laws.

    Congress MPs alleged that Facebook has commercial interests with the government and sepcecially mention the union ministries of Education, Tribal Affairs, Women and Child Development. They also referred to Facebook contract with the Election Commission of India.

    The Opposition charged that due to these contracts, which help Facebook make profits, it would be partial to the ruling party.

    Facebook was also asked about the reported proximity to the ABVP of Ankhi Das, head of public policy for India.

    BJP MPs sought to know from Facebook why content on cow smuggling cases in West Bengal Is removed from its site.

    Facebook responded to some questions and has sought time to answer the remaining queries . The committee has decided to call Facebook representatives again.

    The term of this committee will end on September 12 and this was its last meeting. The next committee will continue the process, sources said.
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