File photo depicting the aftermath of the riots that killed at least 50 people in Northeast Delhi this February | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
File photo depicting the aftermath of the riots that killed at least 50 people in Northeast Delhi this February | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
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New Delhi: The Delhi legislative assembly committee on peace and harmony, formed days after the communal riots in the capital this February, has found Facebook “prima facie guilty of a role in the violence”, panel chief Raghav Chadha said Monday.

The committee has demanded that the social network be treated as a co-accused in the case, saying it hosts “incriminating material” despite receiving complaints from users.

“Facebook should be treated as a co-accused in the case of Delhi riots. Proper investigations must take place,” Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Chadha told a press conference. A “supplementary chargesheet against Facebook for its involvement in the Delhi riots must be filed”, he added.

He also said the panel suspected that Facebook was in a “premediated conspiracy” with the rioters. 

“Facebook has tie-ups with non-accredited news channels whose only aim is to produce content that deepens fault lines. The content that is harmonious in nature and promotes brotherhood is removed by Facebook and one that gives rise to communal disharmony is promoted,” he said

The panel’s claims come just as Facebook grapples with the storm kicked up by a Wall Street Journal report that said the social media giant ignored hate speech by BJP leaders to protect its business interests in India, its biggest market. Facebook has defended itself saying political compulsions are not a factor in its decision-making. In a statement to ThePrint about the Wall Street Journal report earlier this month, Facebook said it prohibits “hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation”. 

Facebook’s alleged inaction against hate speech has also made it a subject of a high-profile ad boycott campaign in the US.

ThePrint contacted Facebook India, which declined to comment.


Also Read: Facebook didn’t act when BJP violated political ad rules, WSJ now alleges


‘Premeditated conspiracy’ 

Chadha said the panel’s conclusion about Facebook was based on statements made by three witnesses. These include Raipur-based journalist Awesh Tiwari, who has filed a police complaint against senior Facebook India policy official Ankhi Das alleging defamation, and is also the subject of a complaint filed by her over online death threats that followed the Wall Street Journal report. 

The other two are independent journalist Kunal Purohit, who has reported on what he says is Facebook’s “bias” towards the current establishment, and independent journalist Subhash Gatade. 

Chadha said during the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted in the US this May after the death of a Black man named George Floyd at the hands of police, Facebook “applied its community standard and worked to promote brotherhood and communal harmony”. “But the same laws that were followed in the US, were broken here in India during the Delhi riots,” he added. 

“It seems that there was a premeditated conspiracy between Facebook and the rioters. Their aim was to have riots in the capital before the Delhi Legislative Assembly election. But they were delayed in implementing this and within a few weeks of the elections, the riots took place,” Chadha alleged.

While the Delhi assembly election results were announced on 11 February, the riots broke out on 24 February.

Chadha said the panel’s “investigation into the matter will remain incomplete till we get a statement from Facebook”, adding that its officials will be summoned for the next meeting.


Also Read: It’s not personal, just business — Facebook-WSJ controversy isn’t unique to India, BJP


 

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