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Expert witnesses depose before Delhi Assembly panel, Facebook officials summoned

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New Delhi, Aug 31: A Delhi Assembly panel Monday recorded depositions of expert witnesses over complaints about Facebook's alleged "intentional inaction to contain hateful content" in India, and decided to summon officials of the social media platform in its next meeting, a statement said.

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The proceedings of the panel on peace and harmony follow a recent Wall Street Journal report which claimed that one of Facebook's senior India policy executives intervened in internal communication to stop a permanent ban on a BJP MLA from Telangana after he allegedly made communally charged posts.

"The committee through its Chairman Raghav Chadha has prima facie found Facebook complicit in Delhi riots of February 2020 on the premise of incriminatory material produced on record by the witnesses as well as their scathing depositions before the Committee, and thus deciding to summon the Facebook officials in its next meeting in order to examine them on oath and determine on their culpability," the statement said.

Earlier this month, Facebook had said its social media platform prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence and these policies are enforced globally without regard to political affiliation.

The Assembly panel also stated that three witnesses -- Chhattisgarh-based journalist Awesh Tiwari, and independent journalists Kunal Purohit and Subhash Gatade -- were examined by the committee in its second sitting on Monday.

"The witnesses today submitted incriminating material on record before the committee as well as made scathing depositions against Facebook Inc, prima facie reflecting the complicity of the Social Media giant in aggravation of Delhi Riots," the statement said.

On the basis of the deposition of the witnesses and material provided by them, the Committee has decided to issue summons for the appearance of Facebook officials, it added.

Facebook a non-partisan platform: India head amid political row

In its first sitting, the committee had last Tuesday examined three other witnesses including senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

Earlier this month, a Facebook spokesperson had said, "We prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and we enforce 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."

Recently, senior BJP leader and Union Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said it is for Facebook to decide what to do as far as the story in the Wall Street Journal is concerned.

He had said that hundreds of pages of BJP supporters were also removed by Facebook.

The parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology has also summoned Facebook on September 2 to discuss the issue of alleged misuse of social media platforms.

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