Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Facebook India chief skips hate speech hearing

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Facebook India’s chief failed to appear Tuesday before a panel probing allegations that the social media giant failed to take action against hate speech, the committee’s head said. India is the US-based company and its messaging service WhatsApp’s biggest market in terms of users, and the firm is under pressure worldwide over the policing of hate speech.

Last week, a Delhi Assembly panel on peace and harmony had summoned Ajit Mohan, managing director of Facebook India, to determine if the social networking site deliberately ignored instances of hate speech on its social media platform.

Read more: Facebook bans BJP politician for spreading hate speech about Muslims

The panel — headed by lawmaker Raghav Chadha with the Aam Aadmi Party governing the Indian capital — also said the firm should be probed over its “alleged role and complicity” in the sectarian Delhi riots in February which killed over 50 people, most of them minority Muslims. But on Tuesday Mohan failed to appear, Chadha said.

“The failure of Facebook to appear before the committee shows that it is trying to hide its role in the Delhi riots,” Chadha told reporters. “Fresh summons will be issued to it in line with principles of natural justice.”

A lawyer for Facebook said the summons was “untenable” as the matter was being heard separately by a parliamentary committee, a Delhi government source told AFP. Facebook India was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the 18-member parliamentary committee had “grilled” Facebook representatives over the platform’s alleged political bias, local media reported.

Read more: Rights groups say Facebook bias spurs violence in India

The firm has been embroiled in a huge row in India after the Wall Street Journal reported in August that the company failed to take down anti-Muslim comments by a politician from the ruling party in order to protect its business interests. Facebook has denied any political bias but admitted it has to do better to curb hate speeches.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk

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