Facebook’s India head Ajit Mohan on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court against a notice sent to him by a Delhi Assembly panel regarding allegations that the social media giant did not properly apply hate speech rules and policies, contributing to the communal violence that hit the city in February, NDTV reported.
Mohan was scheduled to appear before the Peace and Harmony Committee on Wednesday after its chairperson and Aam Aadmi Party MLA Raghav Chadha issued him a final notice. Last week, the social media company’s representatives did not appear before the committee. Chadha had said non-appearance of any Facebook representative before the panel was not only in “contempt” of the Assembly but also an “insult” to the two crore people of Delhi.
A bench comprising of Justices SK Kaul, Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari will hear Mohan’s plea tomorrow via video conference. Mohan, the managing director of Facebook India, will be represented by former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
Mohan has argued that the Delhi Assembly panel cannot force him to appear before it as the matter was under consideration of Parliament. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor met with Facebook executives on September 2 to discuss content regulation, after questioning them for not taking down inflammatory content posted by the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.
Mohan said he had appeared before the Parliamentary panel and therefore the summons issued by Delhi Assembly committee should be withdrawn. He also pointed out that the Delhi Police, which has filed over 17,000-page chargesheet in the violence case, reported to the Centre and not the Delhi government.
The nine-member panel, which is mostly comprised of AAP legislators along with one from the BJP, has maintained that they are well within their rights to summon the executives to answer serious charges levelled against them, which led to the February violence in which at least 53 people were killed and hundreds injured.
The Facebook India head questioned the Aam Aadmi Party’s statement calling the social media company “prima facie guilty”.
The social media company is facing intense political scrutiny in India, its biggest market by users, after The Wall Street Journal on August 14 reported that Facebook’s India policy head Ankhi Das had opposed removing incendiary posts by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders. After the controversy, Facebook banned BJP MLA from Telangana, T Raja Singh, for violating its hate speech policies earlier this month. Singh had earlier called Muslims traitors and posted that Rohingya refugees in India should be shot.
A memo by a data scientist who was fired from Facebook Inc has also revealed that the social media company ignored or has been slow to deal with fake accounts that have affected elections around the world. Sophie Zhang said she worked to remove “a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence” the Delhi Assembly elections on February 8. Zhang added that she “worked through sickness” to remove this, but the social media company never publicly disclosed this network or that it had taken it down.