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Opinion

Panel criticizes Facebook for inaction in Bajrang Dal

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The parliamentary information technology panel on Wednesday blamed Facebook India chief Ajit Mohan for the social media company’s reluctance to ban Bajrang Dal, although an internal report, according to the Wall Street Journal, called the group nationalist. Hindu as a “dangerous” organization. It is the second time in five months that the panel has found reason to berate the company for not paying attention to its own internal assessments.

The question was raised by congressional party MPs and panel members Shashi Tharoor, Karti Chidambaram and Nasir Hussain, people familiar with the matter said. Tharoor leads the panel, which met with Facebook representatives to question them about their efforts to safeguard citizens’ rights, prevent misuse of online news platforms, and ensure the safety of women in the digital space.

“The MPs wanted to know why Facebook had not acted on the internal report that had described the organization as dangerous,” said a person familiar with the proceedings of the meeting, requesting anonymity.

The Wall Street Journal reported that an internal Facebook assessment had described the Bajrang Dal as dangerous, but the company did not act on the report due to financial and safety concerns. WSJ reported on December 14 that Facebook “resisted removing the group” because its security team warned that the action against Bajrang Dal “could jeopardize both the company’s business prospects and its staff in India.”

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone had denied the allegations, stating that the company takes a “careful, rigorous and multidisciplinary approach” when it comes to imposing a ban on individuals or organizations at the social media company.

“We enforce our policy on dangerous people and organizations globally without regard to political position or party affiliation,” Stone said, according to the report.

People familiar with the matter said Mohan dismissed the WSJ report as “fake news.”

“Some MPs also wanted to know why Facebook had not flagged it as false if the article was not true,” said the first person quoted above.

A second person familiar with the proceedings on Wednesday said the social media company maintained that Bajrang Dal could remain on Facebook, but would remove any hateful posts on his page.

“The MPs also wanted to know why Facebook cannot remove a post suo moto by itself if it violates its hate policy,” said the second person. They noted that by the time someone complains about a post, it may “have already served its purpose.”

Facebook told HT that the social media platform was transparent and allowed people to express themselves freely.

“We thank the Honorable Parliamentary Commission for their time. We remain committed to being an open and transparent platform, and to giving people a voice and allowing them to express themselves freely, ”said a Facebook spokesperson.

Among other topics discussed was Facebook’s redress system, which the panel said should be based in India and not the United States.

The panel also questioned Facebook about its data verification mechanism and revenue model. “You also have to determine if Facebook is a publisher or an intermediary, there has to be responsibility,” said the second person. “Facebook’s ability to manipulate the scope of a post was also mentioned at the meeting. Why don’t anti-government posts get the same traction as pro-government posts? ”.

The panel also sought background information on the 268 Facebook India employees.

Congressman Trinamool Mahua Moitra: also asked Facebook “whether or not it monetizes the data,” said the first person mentioned above.

The person added: “Facebook was evasive on the subject. It shows that they may not be selling the data, but they have a system that allows them to monetize it. “

This is not the first time that Facebook has found itself in the middle of a controversy in India following a Wall Street Journal report. According to an Aug. 14 report in the newspaper, Facebook’s then-South Asia public policy director Ankhi Das intervened to prevent Telangana Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker T Raja Singh from being kicked out of the social media site. for possible consequences for the company’s commercial interests in India. .

Singh was eventually banned permanently from Facebook and Das resigned from the company in October to “pursue my personal interest in public service.”

Hindustan Times

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