Govt questions posts on social media inciting communal violence; Facebook apologises for employees' insensitive remarks on Pulwama attack

New Delhi: The Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology, Anurag Thakur said on Wednesday that social media giants Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram have accepted that there is a need for corrective measures to keep a check on posts that lead to communal tensions, incite violence or pose threat to national security.

"They accepted that there is a need for corrective measures. They are ready for them. They have said that they will be in touch with the Election Commission and work on the information provided by the concerned ministries," Thakur told ANI after meeting with officials of Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram. "We asked them to ensure their platforms are not used to create division in society, incite violence, pose threat to India's security or let foreign powers meddle in Indian elections," he added.

Govt questions posts on social media inciting communal violence; Facebook apologises for employees insensitive remarks on Pulwama attack

File photo of Anurag Thakur. AFP

CPI leader D Raja also emphasised on the need to keep a check on the posts that lead to communal tension. "Social media, especially Facebook posting should not lead to communal tension,” he said. Facebook on Wednesday apologised to a Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur over insensitive comments made by some of its employees in the wake of Pulwama attack, according to exclusive information available with ANI.

The Parliamentary Committee had questioned Facebook Vice President, Facebook Global Public Policy, Joel David Kaplan over insensitive comments made by some of its employees. "Mr Joel expressed his deep regret and apologised to the committee for remarks made by Facebook employees on terrorism and Pulwama attack," a source told ANI. The committee also raised questions regarding Facebook’s ability to prevent its platform from being misused during the elections and in helping national security agencies. Joel, who appeared before the committee, reportedly, assured the members that Facebook is focussed on those concerns.

“We are trying to learn from each election. I give you my commitment that we are focused on these concerns. Our systems are getting smarter and I can commit we will try to keep improving,” he told the committee members according to the source. Facebook reportedly refused to comment on NATO experiment that used Facebook accounts to trick serving members of armed forces to get sensitive information.

According to the source, the Parliamentary Committee members expressed doubt that Facebook’s systems are continuously being allowed to be gamed and the platforms continue to focus on monetary aspects of the business. Anurag Thakur-led committee further asked Facebook ‘if its platform is serving the society or being used to divide communities’? The committee said that Indian elections, national security, protecting citizen’s data are its top priority. It directed Facebook to send ‘clear written replies’ in 10 days on the same.

"Facebook said they are a `hybrid company’ and failed to clearly answer which regulatory framework apply to their content, advertising and marketing operations in India,” the source added. Two committee members from different parties expressed their disgust at being banned and their profiles being cloned on Facebook. The tech giant allegedly failed to address this despite the issue being flagged months back.

Earlier, the Committee had allowed Colin Crowell, Vice President and Global Policy Head of Twitter to appear before it on 25 February and directed the micro-blogging site to ensure no interference of foreign entities in Indian elections.

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Updated Date: Mar 07, 2019 08:53:47 IST

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