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Home / Delhi News / Delhi House panel sends summons to top Facebook executive

Delhi House panel sends summons to top Facebook executive

The committee, which is headed by Chadha, had on Tuesday issued a warning to Facebook India after Mohan failed to appear before the panel for its third hearing, despite having been summoned.

delhi Updated: Sep 21, 2020, 02:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A meeting of Delhi assembly’s peace and harmony committee, headed by AAP MLA Raghav Chadha
A meeting of Delhi assembly’s peace and harmony committee, headed by AAP MLA Raghav Chadha

The Delhi legislative assembly’s peace and harmony committee has sent a fresh notice asking Facebook India vice president and managing director Ajit Mohan to present himself for a deposition before the panel on September 23, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spokesperson and legislator Raghav Chadha said on Sunday.

The committee, which is headed by Chadha, had on Tuesday issued a warning to Facebook India after Mohan failed to appear before the panel for its third hearing, despite having been summoned.

“As a matter of law and Constitution, it is imperative for those who are sent notices/summons by the Committee, must appear before the committee and offer responses and solutions and raise all questions including those relating to the remit of the committee,” said the latest notice sent on Friday, a copy of which HT has seen.

Facebook representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

The committee had earlier said Facebook was in contempt of the Delhi assembly, and gave the social media company a “final warning” to heed the summons and appear before it, dismissing a letter sent by executives of the firm, declining to present themselves before the panel.

In a letter, Facebook’s director (trust and safety) Vikram Langer told the peace and harmony committee of the Delhi assembly on Tuesday that the company’s India head, Ajit Mohan, could not appear before the panel because it was already deposing before a parliamentary standing committee, and contended that the firm‘s content regulation was outside the jurisdiction of the state assembly.

On the latest notice sent to Mohan and Langer, the committee said, “It is inconsistent with law of privileges of a legislature, which extends to the committee and its members, to refuse to appear and send a letter, questioning the jurisdiction of not just the committee but of the Assembly of the NCT {national capital territory} of Delhi itself.”

“Any defiance of the subsequent notice for appearance shall be deemed to be an act of breach of constitutionally guaranteed privileges of the committee,” Chadha said on Sunday, “The indifference exhibited by the representative of Facebook India is also a contempt to the people of Delhi who have reposed their faith in the committee to examine the current issue.”

The first notice was issued to Mohan after the committee’s second hearing on September 12, in connection with complaints about the social media company’s alleged “deliberate and intentional inaction to contain hateful content” in the country.

The notice was issued after the committee, in its second hearing on August 31, said prima facie it had found that Facebook India was allegedly complicit in aggravating the communal violence in north-east Delhi in February that left at least 53 people dead and over 400 injured.

The committee is investigating the matter after it took cognisance of “several complaints” received from the public based on an article published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on August 14.

“Overriding jurisdiction of the Central Government was cited as reasons for objecting to the notice for appearance which, to the committee, seemed like a sly attempt to evade responsibility and conceal facts… The frivolous technical grounds cited by the Facebook smacks of premeditated attempt to non- cooperation and ill- assistance with the proceedings in the committee. Reasons cited were demonstrably unsustainable and erroneous in nature. The committee is well within its jurisdiction to call and examine the Facebook officials before it,” said Chadha.

He added: “The fallacious contentions raised in the reply to notice by Facebook, falls foul of the basic federal structure envisaged in the constitution but in the interest of natural justice, the committee has now decided to afford one last opportunity to Mr. Ajit Mohan to appear before the committee on September 23. Facebook must honour the proceedings taking place under the Delhi’s state legislature in the same manner as they did for the parliamentary standing committee. The committee has issued fresh set of notices to Mr. Ajit Mohan to ensure his presence for deposing before the committee*

The report titled, Facebook hate speech rules collide with Indian politics, had stated that the company’s officials, especially Ankhi Das, the public policy director for India, south and central Asia, 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).

A bid to invoke hate-speech rules were allegedly glossed over despite concerns being flagged internally.

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