The Delhi Assembly’s Peace and Harmony Committee has issued a fresh notice to Facebook India managing director Ajit Mohan for deposing before the Committee on 23 September in “one last opportunity” as a witness representing his company with regard to the allegations of “deliberate inaction on the part of (the) social media platform to apply hate speech rules”.
A statement issued by the Committee said any disregard to this notice would be deemed as a “willful act of breach of privilege” of the Committee and thus entail various proceedings to be initiated against Facebook India.
The fresh notice was issued after the Facebook India executives ignored a call to appear before the Committee headed by the ruling Aam Aadmi Party legislator, Raghav Chadha, on 15 September, taking the position that they had already appeared before a parliamentary committee on the issue even as they sought withdrawal of the summons issued by the Delhi Assembly panel.
Taking a strong note of the conduct of Facebook India, the Delhi Assembly Committee came to the conclusion that Facebook was “deliberately” trying to evade the process of law as well as showing “absolute non-cooperation” in enabling the panel to ascertain the genuineness of the allegations made against it, the statement said.
Keeping in view Facebook India’s “disobedience”, the panel mulled over exercising its powers and privileges conferred on it by the Constitution of India by applying its penal jurisdiction against the company after affording it “one last opportunity to appear before the committee”. In pursuance of this, a subsequent notice for appearance has now been issued to Ajit Mohan.
Chadha had clarified that the notice of appearance issued to Facebook was directly related to the incidents of violence or riots that occurred in Delhi in February 2020 whereas the parliamentary panel proceedings were on the subject of “safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms, including special emphasis on women security in the digital space”.
Chadha had said the nonappearance of the top Facebook India official before the Committee was a contempt of the Delhi Legislative Assembly as well as the people of the national capital. He had insisted that Facebook must honour the proceedings taking place under Delhi’s state legislature in the same manner as they did for a parliamentary panel.
The Delhi Assembly Committee had reportedly taken cognisance of the accusations against Facebook for its alleged “complicity” in the February Northeast Delhi riots on the premise of the “incriminatory material” produced on record by the witnesses as well as their depositions in its previous meetings.
The Assembly panel’s hearing in the matter started in the wake of a Wall Street Journal expose that reported that a senior Facebook India policy executive had intervened in internal communication to stop a permanent ban on a BJP legislator from Telangana after he allegedly shared communally charged posts on the social media platform