A Delhi Assembly panel has issued a fresh notice to Ajit Mohan, Facebook India’s vice president and managing director, to appear before it on September 23, Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Raghav Chadha said, Hindustan Times reported on Monday.
The decision came days after Facebook executives, including Mohan, ignored a notice to appear before the Peace and Harmony Committee. Senior Facebook employees are being called by the panel in connection with allegations that the social media giant ignored hate speech by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders on its platform.
“As a matter of law and Constitution, it is imperative for those who are sent notices/summons by the Committee, must appear before the committee and offer responses and solutions and raise all questions including those relating to the remit of the committee,” said the latest notice issued on Friday, according to the newspaper.
On September 15, the panel, led by Chadha, had warned the social media platform that not appearing before it was not only in “contempt” of the Assembly but also an “insult” to the two crore people of Delhi.
A lawyer representing Facebook had told the panel that the matter was under consideration of Parliament and was therefore “untenable”, Chadha said. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor met Facebook executives on September 2 to discuss content regulation, after questioning them for not taking down inflammatory content posted by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.
The nine-member Delhi Assembly panel, mostly comprising AAP legislators along with one from the BJP, said they are well within their rights to summon the executives to answer serious charges levelled against them.
On August 25, the Delhi Assembly panel had initiated proceedings in the matter and decided to summon Facebook officials for interrogation. It had also summoned journalist and author Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and digital rights activist Nikhil Pahwa, whose statements were taken as “expert witnesses”.
Facebook has repeatedly denied the allegations. “We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation,” a Facebook spokesperson had claimed. “While we know there is more to do, we are making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy.”
The company is facing intense political scrutiny in India, after the August 14 report that Facebook’s India policy head Ankhi Das had opposed removing incendiary posts by BJP leaders. A memo by a data scientist who was fired from Facebook Inc had also revealed that the social media company ignored or has been slow to deal with fake accounts that have affected elections around the world.