The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has joined four other opposition parties in Parliament in demanding an explanation from Facebook over reports of alleged bias while censoring hate speech by members of the ruling party.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury told Hindustan Times that the party will take up the issue in Parliament. The party also has one member in the Information Technology parliamentary panel, which has asked Facebook to offer an explanation on September 2.
Hindustan Times, on August 22, had reported that members of the DMK, TRS, TMC and Congress wanted Facebook to explain the role of its India policy head Ankhi Das for alleged violations of the social media company’s hate speech policy.
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The IT panel’s request for an explanation had drawn severe criticism from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, with its MP Nishikant Dubey writing to the Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla to seek the dismissal of panel chair Shashi Tharoor for ‘misusing his position’. On Wednesday, Dubey also asked the chair to cancel the meeting on the Jammu and Kashmir Internet shutdowns as it is in contravention with the Speaker’s advisory that says the panel cannot take up matters pending in front of courts.
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According to Yechury, the Facebook controversy has ‘far-reaching implications on the country’s right to unbiased information’. “How can a social media platform so blatantly violate the right of citizens to access information free from bias,” Yechury said.
The party’s IT panel member may also write to the Speaker raising these issues. Yechury, however, declined to comment on that since the proceedings of the panel are confidential.
But according to leaders in the CPI(M), the main issues that the party is slated to flag are the role of social media companies such as Facebook and WhatsApp in a democratic country, the selective takedown of content and the impact on the integrity of elections.
“How can the business prospects of a company supersede democracy,” said Yechury. “The way Facebook has tried to influence voters in favour of the BJP is an interference in the Indian electoral process by a foreign corporate house.”
“We need to launch a criminal investigation to establish the exact nature of the relationship between Facebook and the BJP. Until the inquiry is completed, the social media network should be banned from working in close cooperation with any of the government’s bodies,” he added.
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