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Facebook India vice-president and managing director Ajit Mohan.
Facebook India vice-president and managing director Ajit Mohan.

Facebook India MD skips Delhi assembly committee meeting

The assembly panel is looking into complaints on the ‘role or complicity of FB officials in the Delhi riots’ in Feb

Facebook India vice-president and managing director Ajit Mohan declined to appear before a Delhi Assembly committee that is looking into the social media giant’s alleged failure to crack down on hate speech, saying the issue falls within the exclusive domain of the Union of India.

The assembly panel on peace and harmony is looking into complaints on the “role or complicity of Facebook officials in the Delhi riots" in February.

On Tuesday, the committee, headed by Aam Aadmi Party MLA Raghav Chadha, asked Facebook to ensure that company executives appear before the panel at its next meeting, warning that a refusal will lead to “breach of privilege" proceedings against the officials. “Refusing to appear before the committee is contempt of the Delhi legislative assembly. This shows Facebook has something to hide," Chadha said.

In a letter to the committee, Facebook said Parliament is already looking into the issue and requested the Delhi panel to withdraw its summons.

“Given that the issues raised by the notice involve subject matter within the exclusive domain of the Union of India, and that the matters are under active consideration by Parliament, we respectfully object to the notice and request you to recall it," Facebook’s director for trust and safety, Vikram Langeh said in the letter to Chadha.

Chadha said Facebook has blatantly refused to participate, instead of using the opportunity to dispel the allegations and restoring the faith and confidence of people.

“The refusal to attend is in contempt of the powers given to the assembly under the Constitution. If an issue is under investigation in Parliament, it does not stop the Delhi assembly from looking into the issue. State legislature functions independent of Parliament. In this case, the issue is also different. The parliament committee is looking into “safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms, including special emphasis on women’s security in digital space". The parliament committee is not looking into any issue related to Delhi riots and Facebook’s role," Chadha said.

The social media platform has faced criticism over allegations that it favours the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in India, to push its own business goals in Asia’s third-largest economy. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Ankhi Das, Facebook India’s director for public policy, had opposed the removal of content from the ruling party leaders although the posts qualified as hate speech.

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