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Shashi Tharoor gives 'breach of privilege' notice against BJP MP for 'disparaging remarks'

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New Delhi, Aug 19: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who heads the parliamentary panel on information technology, has given a notice for breach of privilege against BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, alleging that he made "disparaging remarks" on social media over his decision to summon a panel meeting to discuss alleged "misconduct" of Facebook.

Shashi Tharoor

In his letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Tharoor took strong objection to Dubey's remarks on Twitter that "the Chairman of Standing Committee does not have the authority to do anything without discussion of the agenda with its members".

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    Tharoor said Dubey accused him of championing his political party's "agenda without authorisation by the Committee and Speaker". Dubey's remarks came after Tharoor had said on Sunday that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would like to hear from Facebook about a media report on its conduct and what it proposes to do about hate-speech in India.

    Anguished over "disparaging" remarks made by Dubey against his decision to call a meeting of the panel, Tharoor said it amounted to breach of privilege of his position as an MP and Chairman of the standing committee.

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    "The matter pertains to the disparaging remarks made by Dubey on a social media platform regarding my decision to summon a Committee meeting to discuss the alleged misconduct of Facebook and seek clarity on the measures that it intends to undertake to curb the spread of hate speech and fake news," Tharoor said.

    "Nishikant Dubey's derogatory remarks have not only brought disrepute to my position as a Member of Parliament and Chairman but also to an institution that mirrors the will of the people of our country," Tharoor alleged in the letter, a copy of which was also marked to Sunil Kumar Singh, chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Privileges, Lok Sabha. Tharoor urged Birla to issue necessary directions to initiate proceedings against Dubey for "committing a breach of privilege on multiple accounts and contempt of the House".

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    Meanwhile, tagging a tweet on a media report about the rules and functioning of committees, Dubey on Wednesday tweeted, "In the last 11 years as an MP, I have neither violated any rules nor would I let anyone violate or abuse their power for their parties personal vendetta with agenda."

    Referring to the recently published news report in the Wall Street Journal which claimed that Facebook refused to apply hate speech rules to certain ruling party politicians, Tharoor in the letter underlined the serious nature of allegations made against the social media platform and its far-reaching implications on the citizens' Right to Information.

    A Twitter duel had erupted between Dubey and Opposition MPs Tharoor and Mahua Moitra (TMC) over the prospect of the panel seeking views of Facebook on the WSJ report. In the report published on Friday, US newspaper Wall Street Journal cited interviews with unnamed Facebook insiders to claim that one of its 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.

    Reacting to the controversy, Facebook on Monday said the company's social media platform prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence, adding these policies are enforced globally without regard to political 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," a Facebook spokesperson said.

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