Facebook, WhatsApp summoned by parliamentary panel to discuss social media rights

Facebook-owned photo-sharing app Instagram has also been asked to appear before the panel on 6 March.

A parliamentary panel has summoned representatives of Facebook, its messaging services WhatsApp and photo-sharing app Instagram to appear before it early next month and discuss how to safeguard citizens' rights on social media.

Social media in the world's largest democracy have become a hotbed for circulation of fake political news and tech firms face intense scrutiny ahead of a general election due before May, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek a second term.

A Facebook panel is seen at a movie festival in Cannes, France. Image: Reuters

A Facebook panel is seen at a movie festival in Cannes, France. Image: Reuters

In a circular late on Thursday, the parliamentary committee on information technology, chaired by Anurag Thakur, a lawmaker from PM Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said it would hear the views of officials from Facebook and its units on 6 March.

The subject would be "safeguarding citizens' rights on social or online news media platforms," it added.

It was not immediately clear whether the panel had asked Indian or global executives of the three firms to appear.

Facebook declined to comment, while WhatsApp and Instagram did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The panel has previously summoned social network Twitter's Chief Executive Jack Dorsey to appear on Monday to discuss the same topic.

"These are issues for all Internet services globally," Twitter said on Friday, adding that Colin Crowell, its global vice president of public policy, is to meet the panel on Monday.

Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have overhauled policies to boost transparency ahead of the general election and rein in misinformation.

Alphabet's Google this week launched a programme to train journalists in areas such as online verification and fact checking before the polls.

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