The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone.(Reuters/ File photo)
The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone.(Reuters/ File photo)

Facebook, Twitter representatives to appear before IT parliamentary panel

  • HT had reported on Wednesday that the panel was mulling the decision in the wake of the privacy concerns surrounding WhatsApp’s new policy.
By Deeksha Bhardwaj, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:19 PM IST

The Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology has called the representatives of Facebook and Twitter on January 21 on the issue of "safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space,” according to the Lok Sabha website.

The panel will also hear from the officials of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the same issue. HT had reported on Wednesday that the panel was mulling the decision in the wake of the privacy concerns surrounding WhatsApp’s new policy.

The new privacy policy, which was rolled out by WhatsApp, owned by Facebook Inc, last week, includes mandatory sharing of data with the parent company. The decision to share data was first floated in 2016, post WhatsApp’s acquisition by Facebook, but until last week, application users before the acquisition had the choice of not sharing that data. That choice no longer exists.

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The move has faced massive backlash globally, with users en masse deflecting to other messaging applications such as Signal and Telegram. The issue of data privacy had been raised by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and supported by other MPs, a person familiar with the matter had said.

"If WhatsApp says its data is end-to-end encrypted, how can it be shared with someone else? This raises serious concerns about data privacy. Moreover, in this case, why can't they share the data with the government of India," the person added.

The person mentioned above had added that issue of Twitter’s "arbitrary" ban of US President Donal Trump, in the aftermath of an armed insurrection by his supporters on the Capitol building in Washington, was raised by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Nishikant Dubey and Congress MP Karti Chidambaram. "If they are intermediaries, how can they ban someone. Today, its Donald Trump, tomorrow it will be someone else," said the third person.

“The companies will have to come in and clarify whether they are intermediaries or publishers,” a second person familiar with the matter had said. “The issue of taking down of people’s accounts arbitrarily may also be raised. The exact date of the meeting has not yet been set, but it will happen in the coming weeks.”

Being intermediaries provides the social media platforms freedom from persecution as they are not considered publishers.

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