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Parliament panel questions Facebook on 'misuse' of platform

Amid the raging controversy over social media giant Facebook's alleged bias, Facebook India boss Ajit Mohan appeared before the Parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology yesterday to answer the panel's queries.

Committee Chairperson Shashi Tharoor, who earlier came under attack for discussing the committee's work on social media, tweeted, "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 with representatives of Facebook."

According to the Lok Sabha secretariat, one of the three agendas of the meeting was "to hear the views of the representatives of Facebook on the subject 'Safeguarding citizens' rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women's security in the digital space'.

BJP MP Rajyavardhan Rathore who also attended the meeting was careful about not divulging intricate details but said, "Facebook India is answerable to the people of our country and were thus questioned on various issues."

The Congress, whose leader Tharoor is the chairperson of the standing committee, has repeatedly raised what it calls "unholy nexus" of the ruling BJP with Facebook and WhatsApp. The attack came after a Wall Street Journal article alleged that Facebook India's Head of Public Policy Ankhi Das was seemingly sympathetic to the BJP in the run-up to last year's general election.

Congress recently alleged, "In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had flagged 44 rival pages to Facebook and as of August 31, 2019, 32 per cent of these pages, that is 14 out of the 44 have been pulled down by Facebook."

Interestingly, it is not just the Congress that claims the social media giant to be pro-BJP, but Union Law Minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad also wrote a scathing letter to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg highlighting its top management's alleged bias against the "right of center". A day before that, TMC leader Derek O Brien too wrote to Zuckerberg, complaining about its "link" with the BJP and expressing apprehension in view of the forthcoming West Bengal election next year..