A parliamentary committee on Information Technology on Wednesday directed social media sites Facebook, Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp to ensure the platforms are not misused during the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, The Hindu reported.
“We had a constructive meeting,” said Anurag Thakur, who heads the committee. “These platforms are used by millions of users in India. They should not be misused by hatemongers or fake news peddlers. Importantly, we told them to ensure that there should not be any foreign interference in our election.”
Thakur told The Hindu that Facebook had agreed to have regular meetings with the Election Commission. He said the companies have acknowledged a need for corrective measures on a range of matters and said they were ready to act, according to The Hindu Business Line.
Representatives of Facebook and Facebook-owned WhatsApp and Instagram had deposed before the committee on Wednesday. Facebook Vice President of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan, Facebook India Vice President and Managing Director Ajit Mohan, and Director of Public Policy, India, Ankhi Das, attended the meeting.
Unidentified officials told PTI that Facebook representatives told the committee that it was a “hybrid company” and failed to provide answers on the regulatory framework that applies to their content, advertising and marketing operations in India. The company said it does not “always get it right” on content moderation on its platform.
“The question is, is Facebook a technology company advertising firm, a media firm or marketing firm?” an unidentified member of the committee told The Hindu. “They were not able to give us any clear answer to this fundamental question.” The committee member also expressed concerns that Facebook and its employees were not acting neutrally.
Kaplan also apologised to the committee for “speculative posts” by Facebook employees on terrorism and the Pulwama attack in which 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force were killed on February 14, the Hindustan Times reported.
The parliamentary panel on February 25 had directed Twitter to ensure that foreign players do not influence the upcoming Indian elections. The committee had also asked Twitter to engage more with officials of the Election Commission of India.