Technology

Facebook representatives have appeared before house committees

NEW DELHI: Though BJP has opposed IT standing panel chief Shashi Tharoor’s decision to summon Facebook representatives over allegations of political bias by its India team towards it, there have been many instances of parliamentary committees summoning representatives of social media giants, including Facebook, for examination.

A few months ago, the Ankhi Das-headed Facebook India representatives were summoned and appeared before two parliamentary committees, including the Tharoor-led committee. Last December, Facebook India team deposed before the same house committee when it took up the allegation of ‘WhatsApp snooping row’. It was then reported in the media that Ankhi Das denied snooping charges against WhatsApp.

Incidentally, Tharoor’s immediate predecessor, now MoS for finance Anurag Thakur, had in February 2019 as committee chairman summoned Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over allegations of Twitter’s “anti-right wing bias”. After Dorsey sent his representative to the summons, he was attacked by BJP for not turning up.

Earlier this year, a Rajya Sabha ad hoc panel constituted by Chairman M Venkaiaha Naidu under Jairam Ramesh to find ways to curb access and transmission of child pornographic content on social media, too, had summoned many social media firms, including Das-led Facebook India.

“I don’t understand why some BJP MPs are opposing a parliamentary standing committee summoning Facebook representatives. A few months ago, our Rajya Sabha (ad hoc) House committee constituted by the Rajya Sabha Chairman had called social media firms, including Facebook India representatives. They promptly deposed before the panel,” DMK MP Tiruchi Shiva, a member of the RS ad hoc committee, told ET.

Shiva, also a member of the MM Joshi-led Public Accounts Committee that summoned Niira Radia, a corporate PR firm chief, in the 2G case also questioned the logic of BJP MPs objecting to standing committees or a JPC summoning private company representatives or individuals. “I don’t understand why some BJP MPs are now saying that Facebook cannot be called by the parliamentary committees or be probed by a JPC as it is a private firm. I was a member of the PAC that summoned Niira Radia in connection with 2G case. If parliamentary committees can’t summon private companies and individuals on important public issues, who else can,” asked Shiva.

PC Chacko, who was Chairman of the JPC on 2G, told ET: “Our JPC not only summoned senior officers but also representatives of many leading private telecom committees because all of them were stakeholders in the issue that JPC was probing. There is absolutely no ground for BJP to oppose either a standing committee examining representatives of Facebook or a probe by a JPC.”

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