Facebook played a role in fuelling riots, says Delhi panel
The Delhi Assembly’s peace and harmony committee on Monday said it had prima facie found that social media company Facebook was complicit in aggravating the riots that took place in north-east Delhi in February this year, leaving 53 dead and over 400 injured.
The committee on Monday held its second hearing after it took cognisance of “several complaints” received from people based on an article published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on August 14.
The report titled ‘Facebook hate speech rules collide with Indian politics’ stated that Facebook officials, especially its top public policy executive in India, Ankhi Das, allegedly cited business imperatives while choosing not to apply hate-speech rules to at least four individuals and groups linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India, despite them being internally flagged for promoting or participating in violence.
After the hearing, the peace and harmony committee’s chairperson Raghav Chadha said the panel is now left with no other option but to summon Facebook officials in its next hearing, the date of which will be notified soon.
Facebook did not respond to mails, messages and calls seeking a comment on the matter.
“The committee has decided to summon Facebook officials in its next meeting in order to examine them on oath and determine their culpability. This is because the panel has prima facie found Facebook complicit in the Delhi riots of February 2020 on the premise of the incriminatory material produced on record by the witnesses, as well as their scathing depositions before the Committee,” Chadha said.
BJP spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.
The committee observed that there should be an independent investigation leading to the filing of a supplementary charge sheet in the ongoing cases related to the Delhi riots on the basis of supportive and corroborative material during the course of the purported investigation.
The witnesses whose statements and other proofs were examined on Monday include Awesh Tiwari, a journalist from Chhattisgarh who had lodged an FIR against Facebook’s policy director Ankhi Das, Kunal Purohit, an independent journalist and researcher and Subhash Gatade, another independent journalist.
“The witnesses drew significant correlation with the recent phenomenon of Black Lives Matter Movement which emerged after the brutal murder of George Floyd, an African-American. In this case, Facebook played a major role in containing hate speech. But, when confronted with similar situations in India during the Delhi riots, Facebook chose to flagrantly ignore these guidelines and sheltered offensive and hateful content on its platform. The witness also deposed the current ruling dispensation in India is the highest spender on advertisements on Facebook platform,” the panel said in a statement.