Congress MP and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology Chairperson Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said that the panel would look into reports that Facebook did nothing to censor hate posts by some Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections and ask the social media giant to respond to the accusations, The Indian Express reported.
“I will certainly look into the issue and the committee will seek the views of Facebook,” Tharoor told the newspaper.
In response to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet accusing the BJP of controlling Facebook, Tharoor had also said that the parliamentary committee will consider testimony under the topic “Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”. Tharoor added that the matter was within the committee’s mandate.
Gandhi had on Sunday lashed out at the BJP over its alleged nexus with Facebook, uncovered by an article published on The Wall Street Journal on Friday. “BJP and RSS control Facebook and Whatsapp in India,” Gandhi had said. “They spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook.”
The Wall Street Journal report claimed that Ankhi Das, Facebook’s public policy director for India, South and Central Asia, had opposed taking down incendiary posts made by a BJP leader over fears that upsetting the ruling party may hurt the social media giant’s business prospects in India.
Meanwhile, Congress on Sunday demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into the alleged BJP-Facebook nexus. “We feel that the matter is so serious that it should not be investigated by anything less than the JPC,” Congress said in a statement. The party also demanded that Facebook conduct its own probe into the allegations.
At a virtual press conference, Congress’ data analytics chief Praveen Chakravarty said that the party had on many occasions raised concerns about Facebook’s functioning, according to The Hindu. “We had many formal meetings with the company in India and the US,” he said.
The party also asked why the Centre was afraid of an investigation by a joint parliamentary committee and said that Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad could also be a part of the panel. Prasad had on Sunday lashed out at Gandhi, calling him a “loser”, after the latter accused the BJP of controlling Facebook.