Facebook India chief Ajit Mohan appears before Parliamentary panel

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Economics Times, September 02, 2020

Amid a political slugfest over the Facebook issue, the company’s India head Ajit Mohan on Wednesday appeared before a parliamentary panel, which is discussing alleged misuse of social media platforms.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, headed by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, had called representatives of Facebook to hear their views “on the subject of safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space,” according to agenda of the meeting.

Mohan, Managing Director of Facebook India, appeared before the panel this afternoon, officials said.

The panel has also called representatives of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the same issue.

Tharoor’s announcement that the panel would like to hear from Facebook about a report published in the Wall Street Journal claiming that the social media platform ignored applying its hate-speech rules to politicians of the BJP in India, had evoked a strong reaction from BJP members of the panel.

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey had alleged that the Congress leader has been using the panel’s platform to further his and his party’s political agenda and even demanded his removal as chairman.

A fresh round of political slugfest started on the matter on Monday with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi claiming that the international media has “exposed” Facebook and WhatsApp’s “brazen assault” on India’s democracy and social harmony.

“No one, let alone a foreign company, can be allowed to interfere in our nation’s affairs. They must be investigated immediately and when found guilty, punished,” Gandhi tweeted.

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also wrote to Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, accusing the social media platform’s employees of supporting people from a political predisposition that lost successive elections, and “abusing” Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers.

In a three-page letter to Facebook Chief Executive Zuckerberg, Prasad alleged “bias and inaction” by individuals in the Facebook India team on complaints by people supportive of right-of-centre ideology.

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