India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition parties clashed on Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology Chairman Shashi Tharoor’s statement that the panel would wish to hear from the tech company about reports of bending its “hate speech rules” in India.
BJP lawmaker and member of the Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology Nishikant Dubey claimed Shashi Tharoor as chairman of the panel “does not have the authority to do anything without discussion of the agenda with its members".
Dubey said the chairman has to follow the rules of the parliamentary panel before summoning Facebook officials before it.
"Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor should discuss the issue of summoning Facebook officials before the parliamentary panel. He can only raise such issues according to the rules of the panel", said Dubey in a tweet in Hindi.
कांग्रेस सांसद शशि थरूर फेसबुक अधिकारियों के तलब करने का दावा करने से पहले उनको संसद की स्थायी समिति में चर्चा करना होगा। इन मुद्दों को वे समिति के नियमों के मुताबिक ही उठा सकते हैं।@ShashiTharoor https://t.co/4CfDO3DJ2l— Dr Nishikant Dubey (@nishikant_dubey) August 18, 2020
In response to the ruling lawmaker, opposition Trinamool Congress member Mahua Moitra said the issue was well within the prerogative of the panel chairman. "Amazing how BJP jumps up and down at anything to do with FB's interests", Moitra tweeted.
Am IT comm member - agenda item was already agreed & bulletinized with Speaker's approval at the beginning of the year. When to schedule each item & who to call is Chairman's prerogative— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) August 17, 2020
Amazing how @BJP jumps up & down at anything to do with FB’s interests! https://t.co/O1cNN0lO7R pic.twitter.com/FKBbBnNXQB
Shashi Tharoor shot back at the ruling party lawmaker, charging that "by imputing motives to my decision, Nishikant Dubey has brought the Committee's work into disrepute". He slammed Dubey's onjecting to taking up such an issue of "great public interest".
You are absolutely right, @mahuaMoitra,& by imputing motives to my decision, @nishikant_dubey has brought the Committee's work into disrepute, a matter I will take up. Extraordinary that an MP would suggest that a matter of such great public interest should NOT be taken up by us! https://t.co/8pRxZ5r6mU— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) August 17, 2020
A report in The Wall Street Journal cited Facebook insiders, who claimed that the company’s senior policy executive in India, Ankhi Das intervened in its internal content review process to stop a ban on a BJP legislator from Telangana, T. Raja Singh, who allegedly shared posts targeting Muslims.
The Congress party said the report exposed the “sinister connection” between Facebook-WhatsApp and the BJP government in India.
Facebook, however denied any such bias. "We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation".
Ankhi Das, Facebook India's Public Policy Director, in the meanwhile, has filed a police complaint in Delhi that she was getting “death threats” and that some people are posting obscene messages against her.