The controversy over Facebook’s alleged BJP “bias”, triggered by a Wall Street Journal report, is showing no signs of dying down. After allegations that the social media giant went easy on hate speeches made by BJP leaders, Congress MP and information technology (IT) parliamentary committee head Shashi Tharoor had said he would summon Facebook executives over the issue. But BJP MP Nishikant Dubey claimed on Monday that the rules do not allow this.
In the meantime, Ankhi Das, Facebook’s director of public policy for India, South Asia and Central Asia — who is named in the WSJ report — has filed a police complaint alleging threats to her life. Meanwhile, Das has been named in an FIR filed on Monday in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur.
Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee has also said it will summon Facebook officials after having received several complaints.
Facebook, on the other had, had claimed that it prohibited hate speech, but admitted that it had more to be done.
Here’s everything you need to know on this issue:
Can IT panel chief summon FB executives?
While it was reported on Monday that the Parliamentary IT panel would write to Facebook, BJP MP Dubey claimed on Twitter that the “Chairman of Standing Commitee does not have the authority to do anything without discussion of the agenda with its member”.
The Chairman of Standing Commitee does not have the authority to do anything without discussion of the agenda with its member. @ShashiTharoor stop @RahulGandhi agenda without authorisation by the Committee and Speaker @ombirlakota https://t.co/4mKjoBgx6k
— Dr Nishikant Dubey (@nishikant_dubey) August 17, 2020
However, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, who is also part of the panel, replied to Dubey’s tweet, pointing out that the chairperson did have the power to summon people and schedule items.
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
Amazing how @BJP jumps up & down at anything to do with FB’s interests! https://t.co/O1cNN0lO7R pic.twitter.com/FKBbBnNXQB
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) August 17, 2020
Tharoor added his two bits, saying that Dubey was bringing disrepute to the committee by claiming he had ulterior motives.
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
Former Lok Sabha secretary general P.D.T Achary confirmed this to the Hindustan Times. He said, “The chairperson can request a third party to come and offer an explanation. It then goes to the secretariat for approval.”
The BJP’s big guns have been defending BJP’s conduct in the matter. On Sunday, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad uncharitably called Rahul Gandhi a “loser” for questioning the BJP. BJP MP and former minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore wrote an op-ed in The Indian Express where he cited George Orwell’s 1984 to claim that there was “an organised assault by the Left-Congress ecosystem” on Indians’ right to free speech”.