The Indian parliamentary committee on IT has asked Facebook to do more to curb fake news on its platform ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019, reports Reuters. The committee told Facebook that it wasn’t doing enough to curb misinformation, and questioned the steps it has taken to do this so far. The meeting took place yesterday, where Facebook’s global public policy head Joel Kaplan and India head Ajit Mohan met with the committee.

  • According to an Economic Times report, the committee said that Facebook was “unwilling to be scrutinized” despite “mistakes” made recently.
  • Facebook’s executives agreed that it did not “always get it right” on content moderation, and reportedly failed to answer questions on which Indian laws were applicable to Facebook and its group companies Instagram and WhatsApp.
  • Kaplan said that the company was willing to engage on the “right regulatory framework”.
  • Per the ET report, the committee told Facebook to be more prompt on issues flagged by the Election Commission.

Two BJP MPs from Punjab and West Bengal expressed their “disgust” over Facebook’s inaction. One of them said that his account had been banned, and the other said that his handle was cloned. They said their problems weren’t resolved.

IT Min on social media-elections and a local office

Yesterday, RS Prasad, the Minister for IT and Electronics, said, “I would expect social media platforms to give due consideration and respect to the wish and the mandate of the Election Commission.” He further added that, “There will have to be technological solutions to address these concerns over fairness of election campaign and the onus is on the social media platforms… As these social media platforms respect the (legislative) institutions of America, Indian parliamentary institutions are also to be respected.”

In August 2018, Prasad declared that WhatsApp needed to have a physical presence and an office in India; MeitY said that WhatsApp could move ahead with its payments plans only after it had opened an office and hired a team in India. In November 2018, WhatsApp appointed Abhijit Bose as its India head.

Twitter’s meeting with the panel

The Facebook meetings comes on the heels of the Committee summoning Twitter officials last month. However, its Indian officials informed the committee that CEO Jack Dorsey could not travel to India on such short notice. The committee declined to meet its Indian officials, and gave Dorsey another 15 days to present himself at the meeting.

Last week, Twitter’s global public policy head Colin Crowell attended the meeting, and left with the promise of a liaison officer to coordinate with the EC, among other things. Twitter has been asked to  submit written responses to some questions within 10 days.

Its worth noting that only 9 of the 31 members of the parliamentary committee attended the meeting with Twitter. One of the members called the meeting ‘a waste of public money’.

Facebook and Elections 2019

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