Facebook gets Delhi Assembly panel’s warning as official fails to appear before it
The Delhi assembly’s peace and harmony committee on Tuesday issued a warning to Facebook India after its vice-president (V-P) and managing director (MD) Ajay Mohan did not appear before the panel’s third hearing, despite being summoned.
Raghav Chadha, the chairperson of the committee and an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lawmaker from Rajendra Nagar, said Mohan’s refusal to appear before the panel was contempt of the Delhi legislative assembly.
During the hearing, which was live streamed for the media, Chadha said, “Facebook India’s refusal to appear before the committee is an attempt to conceal crucial facts regarding the social media firm’s role in the communal riots in north-east Delhi in February. This non-cooperation shows that Facebook India wants to hide its role in the riots,” Chadha said.
He said that instead of appearing before the committee, the company sent a letter to the panel.
In its reply to the committee’s notice, Facebook said Parliament, which has exclusive rights, is looking into the issue and the Union government has the law and order rights over the national capital.
Chadha cited the response as contempt of Delhi’s two crore residents because legislators are elected representatives.
“State legislative functions are independent of the parliamentary functions. Facebook India has said the issue is under the jurisdiction of Parliament. This is totally wrong,” he said.
“Since this issue is sensitive in nature and is related to Delhi’s peace and harmony, we have decided to issue a last warning to Facebook India under the principle of natural justice. We want to give the opportunity to every accused to be heard. We are giving a last chance to appear before the committee.
The panel will send another notice to Facebook India. It will also explain to the company about the privileges of the Delhi assembly panel,” he added.
A reaction from Facebook India was not immediately available.
The Delhi assembly’s peace and harmony committee had on September 12 issued a notice to Mohan 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, had said prima facie it had found that Facebook India was allegedly complicit in aggravating the north-east Delhi riots in February, which had left 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.
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 with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the country.
The bid to invoke hate-speech rules were allegedly glossed over, despite concerns were flagged internally.
India is the biggest market for the social media company, which is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, United States of America (USA). There are over 290 million Facebook users in the country.