Delhi riots: FB officials to depose before Assembly panel on November 18
Facebook India is set to depose before the Delhi assembly’s committee on peace and harmony on November 18, the panel’s chairperson and AAP Rajendra Nagar MLA Raghav Chadha said in a statement on Tuesday.
The panel is conducting an inquiry into the communal riots that hit Delhi in February last year, killing 53 people and injuring over 400 others.
The committee initially asked Facebook to send a senior representative to depose before it on November 2, but the social media firm sought two weeks’ time, noting that it is selecting an appropriate executive to represent it.
“The summons were issued by the committee to Facebook India to depose its views on the critical role of social media in preventing the spread of false, provocative, and malicious messages that can incite violence and disharmony,” Chadha said.
The statement said that Chadha will convene the committe’s meeting in Delhi Vidhan Sabha at 12.30pm on Thursday.
“The proceedings of the committee will be streamed live in view of transparency,” said the statement.
Facebook India’s public policy director Shivnath Thukral and director (legal) GV Anand Bhushan will appear before Delhi assembly’s committee.
Thukral, in an official letter, wrote, “We again thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee on Peace and Harmony to provide our views to assist the committee in its aims to recommend preventative and remedial measures concerning issues of governance, social cohesion, unity, brotherhood and peace and to strengthen overall social and economic development through communal harmony. Facebook shares the committee’s aim to improve harmony among religious communities, linguistic communities, and social groups.”
In October 2020, the Delhi legislative assembly panel told the Supreme Court that it had summoned Facebook India vice-president and managing director as a witness to ascertain the social media platform’s views on whether it contributed in any way to the build-up of the February, 2020 communal violence.
On July 8, the Supreme Court order upheld the powers of the panel to summon both members and non-members, including representatives of Facebook.
“Facebook cannot excuse themselves from appearing pursuant to the new summons issued to them on February 3, 2021... Facebook is a platform where political differences are reflected. They cannot wash their hands off the issue as this is their very business,” said the top court’s July 8 order.
At the same time, the court clarified that the panel cannot become a “prosecuting agency” which can hold people guilty and order filing of charge sheets in the riot cases.
The Facebook executive will be at liberty not to answer questions relating to law and order and police, while such a refusal cannot lead to any coercive step by the assembly, the Supreme Court said.