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New Delhi: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology Wednesday questioned Facebook India head Ajit Mohan on the social networking site’s mechanism to deal with hate posts, with both BJP and opposition members asking Mohan to share profiles of their India staff, along with their political affiliation, with the committee, MPs who attended the meeting told ThePrint.

Mohan and his colleagues, Shivanath Thukral, public policy head, and Saanjh Purohit, associate general counsel, were deposing before the panel on the issue of safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social online news media platforms.

“Some BJP members gave the name of five Facebook employees who they said had Left-leanings and wanted their profile from Mohan. Then other members, including BJP’s Nishikant Dubey, intervened and said that Facebook should provide the profile of all 268 employees in India,” a MP who attended the meeting told ThePrint.

The MP added that Mohan refused, saying Facebook doesn’t collect such data of their employees.

WSJ report

The MPs also asked Mohan about The Wall Street Journal report that claimed Facebook has not cracked down on the Bajrang Dal because of financial and safety considerations, this despite an internal assessment calling for a ban on the group for its support to violence against minorities.

“Facebook representatives told the panel members that the article was not correct,” the MP quoted above said.

MPs, cutting across party lines, also wanted to know if Facebook funded political parties. “Mohan denied that Facebook funds political parties. He, however, said that the company provides funds to think tanks, academics and NGOs,” another MP present in the meeting quoted Mohan as saying.

Facebook representatives also denied that the social networking site shares or sells users’ data with others in India or outside.

Also read: ‘They crossed limits’ — VHP says will take legal action against WSJ over Bajrang Dal report

Fake news and fact check

On being asked how the tech giant is dealing with hate speech and fake news, Mohan told the panel members that Facebook respects local laws and whenever they receive complaints related to hate posts and fake news, they check and take it down.

Facebook India representatives were also asked if the company has a system in place to check the credibility of their fact-checkers. “Facebook representatives said that though they have a system in place to demonstrate transparency of sources but admitted that there is no clear cut responsibility,” the second MP said.

Mohan also informed the parliamentary panel that between January and June 2020, Facebook has taken down 681 hate post/fake news posts. Between July and December 2019, a total of 841 posts were taken down.

“Some of the members also pointed out that Facebook’s grievance redressal officer works from California and suggested that there should be somebody in India as well,” the second MP quoted above told ThePrint.

Facebook representatives said they will get back to the panel on this matter.

Facebook was also asked to submit the company’s revenue model with the parliamentary panel and also give in writing if it sells users data to others in India and abroad, in the next 15 days.

Also read: Why breaking up Facebook’s monopoly is more difficult than it seems


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