Delhi riots hate speech: Key FB executive summoned before Delhi House panel

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Updated on Sep 13, 2020 06:31 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

The Delhi Assembly’s peace and harmony committee has summoned Facebook India vice-president and managing director Ajit Mohan in connection with complaints about the social media company’s “deliberate and intentional inaction “ in controlling hateful content on its platform. -- the second time in weeks that the Facebook executive will be appearing before a government panel to justify the company’s behaviour.

The panel, headed by Aam Aadmi Party legislator from Rajendra Nagar, Raghav Chadha, has issued a notice, asking Mohan to appear before it on September 15 at the Delhi Vidhan Sabha premises.

“The summons were issued on the basis of scathing depositions of key witnesses as well as incriminating material submitted by them on record,” the committee said in an official statement Saturday.

The notice came weeks after the committee, in its second hearing on August 31, said that prima facie, it has found that Facebook was allegedly complicit in aggravating the February riots in north-east Delhi that left 53 dead and at least 400 injured. These primarily have to do with posts on its platform ahead of and during the rites.

The committee is investigating the matter 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 article alleged that the social media company ignored its own hate speech guidelines and decided not to act against comments posted by a lawmaker from the Bharatiya Janata Party at the instance of its (Facebook’s) top lobbyist in India.

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, 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 India.

BJP leaders have since complained that the social media company is actually biased against it -- and law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has shot off a letter to the effect to the company.

Facebook did not respond to e-mails, text messages and calls seeking comment .

HT has seen a copy of the notice that the Delhi assembly’s deputy secretary sent to Mohan on September 10. It reads, “We hereby summon you (Ajit Mohan) to appear before the committee on September 15, 2020 at 12 Noon at MLA Lounge- 1, Delhi Vidhan Sabha, for the purpose of recording your deposition on oath and participating in the proceedings carried out by the committee,”

In the last hearing, the committee said 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.

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