The Delhi Assembly’s panel on Peace and Harmony on Tuesday decided to summon Facebook officials in connection with allegations that the social media giant chose to ignore hate speech made by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders on its platform, PTI reported. The panel also called experts to offer their opinion on the accusations against Facebook.
“It was unanimously decided by the committee, upon the revelations and insights gathered by the witnesses, that Facebook officials must be called upon to carry out a painstaking investigation into the allegations made by the complainants which were supported by the witnesses as well as the depositions of key witnesses summoned,” the Delhi Assembly said in a statement.
The Delhi Assembly added that it will issue notices to top Facebook officials soon and interrogate them on record.
The panel also called in journalist and author Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa, whose statements were taken as “expert witnesses”. Thakurta has written a book titled The Real Face of Facebook in India.
Aam Aadmi Party MLA Raghav Chadha, who is the chairperson of the Delhi Assembly panel, asked the experts several questions about the alleged Facebook-BJP nexus and the role of social media in “aggravating” the large-scale communal violence that took place in the Capital in February.
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The experts told the panel that Facebook was not as “agnostic and content neutral” as it claims to be, according to The Indian Express. The experts also said that there was evidence to prove the alleged collusion between the social media giant and the BJP. They added that an independent inquiry would be needed to ascertain Facebook’s role in instigating communal violence and its alleged inaction to incendiary posts.
Facebook’s inaction on hate speech was exposed by a report published in The Wall Street Journal on August 14. The report has triggered a huge political row in India. The report also exposed Facebook India’s head of public policy, Ankhi Das, who allegedly “opposed applying hate-speech rules” to at least four individuals and groups linked with the BJP even though they were “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence”.
Last week, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology said it has summoned Facebook representatives for a discussion on September 2. The committee’s chairperson, Shashi Tharoor, had on August 17 announced that the panel will up take up the findings of a report by The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Facebook on Friday said there is no space for hate speech on its platform. The social media giant asserted that it is an “open, transparent and non-partisan platform” which denounces hate and bigotry in any form.