A Delhi Assembly committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the communal violence that erupted in the Capital in February last year, on Friday asked the representatives of Facebook India to appear before it on November 2.

Fifty-three people, mostly Muslims, had died after clashes broke about between supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it. The Act had triggered protests across the country as it introduced religious criteria for Indian citizenship for the first time.

After the clashes, allegations emerged that Facebook’s laxity in applying hate speech rules and policies had contributed to the violence.

On September 23 last year, the Delhi’s Assembly’s Committee on Peace and Harmony had asked Facebook India Vice President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan to appear before it for questioning.

But Mohan moved the Supreme Court against the summons. He argued that the Delhi Assembly committee had no authority to summon him as the matter had already been taken up by a parliamentary panel.

On July 8 this year, the Supreme Court directed Mohan to appear before the Delhi Assembly committee. It was in accordance with this order that the committee issued the latest summons to Facebook.

“The Committee on Peace and Harmony has decided to call upon Facebook India representative to depose on 2nd November, 2021 on the important role of social media in curbing the spread of false and malicious messages which can fan disharmony and adversely impact peace,” Aam Aadmi Party MLA Raghav Chadha tweeted on Friday.

In the summons, the Delhi Assembly committee said that social media has a significant role in curbing the “spread of false, provocative and malicious messages, which can fan violence and disharmony”.

The committee added that since Facebook has lakhs of users in Delhi, it had decided to hear the views of Facebook representatives on the matter.

“It is therefore requested that a competent senior representative(s) of Facebook India appear before the committee on the said date [November 2],” the notice said. “Failure to send a representative could lead to initiation of proceedings for breach of privilege/contempt of the Assembly.”

Previous summons to Facebook

The Peace and Harmony Committee had asked summoned Mohan on September 12 also. He did not appear before it.

The summons had been issued following an August 14 report in The Wall Street Journal that former Facebook India Public Policy head Ankhi Das had opposed removing incendiary posts by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders during the violence.

Das stepped down from her position on October 27. However, Both Das and Mohan denied allegations of bias in how Facebook regulates its political content in India. The company said it prohibits hate speech that incites violence and enforces policies without regard to political position or party affiliation.