NEW DELHI India’s main opposition Congress party has called for a parliamentary panel to investigate favourable treatment by Facebook’s India team towards the country’s ruling party.
Citing a report published a leading US daily, the party said employees of Facebook and WhatsApp overseeing Indian content had refused to bar a lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party who had posted incendiary comments to protect the company’s “commercial interests”.
Facebook’s top public policy executive in India said the company did not apply hate-speech rules to at least four individuals and groups linked with the BJP who were “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence”.
WhatsApp is waiting for regulatory clearances to launch a payment platform. It has invested $5.7 billion in Reliance’s digital unit, with the aim of serving tens of millions of small shops across India.
“Congress party demands the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee to probe the relations of Facebook and WhatsApp employees with the ruling party,” Ajay Maken, spokesman of the Congress party said at a news briefing.
“The report says action was not taken because of the business interests of Facebook, we would also like to know what are those business interests which are stopping Facebook and Whatsapp. Is there any deal that you vitiate the atmosphere in India…polarise society on the basis of caste and religion which is the agenda of the BJP and the RSS…and in return for that we will help you make gains in India’s market?”
Maken also urged the company to launch an internal inquiry into its Indian oversight team. “This is an issue of Facebook’s global credibility,” he said.
Facebook said it prohibited hate speech and content that incited violence and enforced these policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation. “While we know there is more to do, we’re making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits of our process to ensure fairness and accuracy,” it said.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who is also chairman Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, said he will “certainly look into the issue and the committee will seek the views of Facebook.”