Peace and Harmony Committee to summon FB officials over reports of bias towards BJP

New Delhi: Now that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has indicated that it will look into allegations of bias towards members of the ruling BJP posting hate speech on Facebook, the social media giant is set to be hauled up before the Delhi Assembly's Peace and Harmony Committee headed by AAP MLA Raghav Chadha.

In a statement released on Monday, the committee said that it would convene this week to take a decision on how to proceed with the inquiry against Facebook. The committee added that "summonses set to be sent" to officials of the social media company, especially its policy head in India, Ankhi Das, who has recently been accused of favouring BJP politicians and not taking action against their Facebook accounts for purported hate speech. The committee said the revelations in WSJ were "scathing".

The committee has also said it will probe whether any Facebook officials should be held responsible for the north-east Delhi riots in February that killed at least 53 and injured scores. The Peace and Harmony Committee said, "Interestingly, in a video featuring Mark Zuckerberg, quoting the contents of a BJP leader's post as categorically offensive and hateful. Despite this, officials of Facebook have been alleged to turn a blind eye to hate speech and communal hatred mongers. In view thereof, it compels the committee to take immediate notice and get to the root of this issue with a view to painstakingly discern if there is any role or complicity of Facebook officials in the orchestration of Delhi riots."

The committee said that it decided to proceed with this inquiry after it received multiple complaints addressed to Chairperson Chadha against officials of Facebook for their alleged deliberate and intentional inaction to contain hateful content in India "for vested reasons". It said after careful deliberations over the allegations, it had decided to take "immediate cognizance of this issue and has set its mechanism in motion".

A report in The Wall Street Journal had quoted a Facebook Spokesman, who said that Das had cited "political fallout" from the decision to ban a BJP politician from the platform to allegedly keep his account active. The Spokesman had added that this was the only consideration to let the politician continue operating his account.

"More so, the complaints refer to the article by Wall Street Journal, titled as 'Facebook's Hate- Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics', where a specific mention has been made describing an explicit resistance posed by one, Ms. Ankhi Das, Facebook's top Public Policy Director, for applying the hate speech rules to at least one Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) politician and other 'Hindu nationalist individuals and groups', despite the fact that the content posted by these individuals or groups had been 'flagged internally for promoting violence'."

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