NEW DELHI: The
brass in India faced several “uncomfortable” questions from both opposition and ruling party members over alleged political bias, with the social media firm’s India head
Ajit Mohan Prasad
being asked by
MPs about his association with Congress and quizzed by the opposition whether more Congress than BJP pages were deleted.
The questioning was intense at the three-and-half-hour meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on information technology, headed by
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor
, on Wednesday.
BJP members asked several questions about biases of FB employees, with Godda MP Nishikant Dubey pointing to the past political affiliations of many of them. In response to questions, Prasad is learnt to have distanced himself from write-ups he had penned several years ago which were critical of BJP. He said no senior member of the India team was politically biased though there were employees who had previously worked with political parties or leaders.
Tharoor’s announcement that the panel would like to hear from Facebook about a report published in the Wall Street Journal claiming that the social media platform ignored applying its hate-speech rules to BJP politicians, had evoked a strong reaction from BJP members, setting the stage for an intense round of questioning by BJP and opposition MPs at Wednesday’s meeting.
Though Facebook officials had a long deposition, Tharoor later said in a tweet, that discussions remained inconclusive and the committee will re-congregate at a later date, likely to be announced after September 12, when the one-year tenure of the panel ends. “In response to overwhelming media interest in the meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on information technology that just adjourned, this is all I can say: we met for some three & a half hours & unanimously agreed to resume the discussion later, incl w/ reps of @Facebook," he said on
In response to overwhelming media interest in the meeting of the ParliamentaryStandingCommittee on InformationTechn… https://t.co/IvU1akXHeX— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) 1599056985000
After the meeting, a BJP MP said the FB brass was closely questioned over allegation that reports of the social media firm going soft on the saffron party was the handiwork of employees, who were active members of the Congress and Left parties. There were questions over the FB management’s hiring of its “fact-check” team and what is the process of outsourcing the work to other agencies. It was learnt that the committee will take up the issue once again in future. “There will be a new committee soon, which will look into the issues once again,” a member said.
The committee, headed by Tharoor, had called representatives of Facebook to hear their views on the subject of ‘safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space’. Dubey had alleged that the Congress leader has been using the panel’s platform to further his and his party's political agenda and even demanded his removal as chairman.