Facebook execs take Centre's cover to skip Assembly committee hearing
new delhi: Taking the cover of the Central government, top executives of Facebook India skipped a summons issued by the Delhi Assembly's "Peace and Harmony" committee and refused to appear before it on Tuesday, citing that they had already appeared before a parliamentary panel and that "the regulation of intermediaries like Facebook fall within exclusive authority of the Union of India".
Visibly frustrated with the response from Facebook's lawyers, the Peace and Harmony committee, headed by AAP MLA Raghav Chadha, decided to issue a "final notice" to the social media giant. During proceedings, Chadha said non-appearance of any Facebook representative before the panel was not only "contempt" of Assembly, but also an "insult" to the 2 crore people of Delhi.
Chadha said that Facebook's justification was "untenable" and added, "The failure of Facebook to appear before the committee shows that it is trying to hide its role in the Delhi riots. As per principles of natural justice, we should give a last chance to Facebook vice president and managing director to appear before the committee. Still, if he does not come, the committee will not desist from using all its powers including coercive steps."
The Committee said that Facebook has deliberately tried to evade the process of law and showed non-cooperation in enabling the committee to ascertain the genuineness of the allegation put out against it.
The Committee had decided to call upon VP and MD of Facebook India, Ajit Mohan, to determine the veracity of the allegations levelled against the social networking site in the north-east Delhi riots.
Chadha said that the Delhi legislative committee is operating in its constitutionally lawful jurisdiction and does not conflict or weaken the jurisdiction of the Central government on similar issues. "The Legislative Assembly of the NCT of Delhi has legislative powers in respect of these subjects, and the Government of NCT of Delhi has the exclusive executive power in respect of the same," the committee highlighted.
Chadha clarified that the notice of appearance issued to Facebook is directly related to the incidents of violence that occurred in the Capital. "Whereas the proceedings in Parliament are on the subject 'Safeguarding citizens' rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space'. The proceedings before the Parliament are in no way connected to the role of Facebook in the riots," he added.
"Facebook is trying to act as a judge, jury and prosecutor in the case against themselves and becoming a deciding authority in determining what is to be done and what not," a statement issued by the Committee noted.
Meanwhile, Chadha issued a statement later on Tuesday night citing a news article titled "I Have Blood On My Hands: A Whistleblower Says Facebook Ignored Global Political Manipulation", saying that the company might have had a hand in the Delhi elections earlier this year.
Chadha said the article revealed a memo which "states that during Delhi election in February 2020, the same former employee had worked to remove 'a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence the local elections taking place in Delhi in