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Hate speech policies enforced without political bias: Facebook

New Delhi: Facebook on Monday said it enforces its policies on hate speech "without regard to anyone's political position or party affiliation" amid the controversy that erupted after a US media report alleging that the social media giant ignored hate speech posted on its platform by leaders of the ruling BJP.

"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. While we know there is more to do, we're making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy," a Facebook spokesperson said.

However, the social media giant's troubles with legislative departments across the globe seem to have no end in sight as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has now said the social media company and its officials in India will be scrutinised with respect to allegations of bias towards members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party spreading hate messages on their platforms.

The move comes after a report published by The Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook's policy head in India, Ankhi Das had multiple times intervened in the company's process to make sure at least three prominent politicians from the BJP are not banned from Facebook for their posts containing hate speech, as defined by the website itself.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Information Technology on Sunday night said the committee would "certainly wish to hear" from Facebook about these reports and "what they propose to do about hate-speech in India".

He said: "Our Parliamentary Committee will, in the normal course, consider testimony under the topic 'Safeguarding citizens' rights & prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms'. The subject is squarely within the IT Cmt's mandate& @Facebook has been summoned in the past."

Meanwhile, when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi cited the report alleging collusion between Facebook and the ruling party, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hit back alleging that Gandhi's party was somehow involved in the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook data leak case. While the IT ministry itself had initiated a CBI probe in this case, the agency has been probing the matter for two years now with an FIR nowhere in sight and the investigation still in a preliminary enquiry stage.

After the report was published, the role of Das in particularly not acting against the BJP leaders has taken prominence. The report in The WSJ had also quoted a Facebook spokesman saying that Das had cited the "political fallout" from banning a member of the BJP from its platform but had added that this was not the only reason for Facebook choosing to let him remain.

The politician in question is T Raja Singh, a BJP MLA in Telangana, who has several times openly posted hateful messages against Rohingya Muslims. In fact, the report also weaves a scathing indictment of Facebook in allowing BJP leader Kapil Mishra's video post about threatening to use force to remove peaceful anti-CAA protesters to remain on the platform long enough for his page's engagement to increase into the millions. Facebook had eventually removed Mishra's post.

After the report, however, Das has now filed a complaint, alleging a threat to her life and also reported certain Twitter accounts to the Cyber Cell here. Delhi Police have registered an FIR in the matter.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Assembly's Peace and Harmony Committee, headed by AAP MLA Raghav Chadha has also initiated an inquiry in the matter, with a statement saying that they will convene this week to set a date for summoning Das and other officials of Facebook.

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