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After Twitter, Facebook will face questions from the Indian Parliament

After Twitter, Facebook will face questions from the Indian Parliament
Tech3 min read
White House Archives/Lawrence Jackson

  • After Twitter appearance in front of the Parliamentary Committee in India, Facebook along with WhatsApp and Instagram have been summoned on March 6.
  • The panel is concerned that social networking sites should not interfere or manipulate the upcoming general elections in India.
  • Twitter has been issued a deadline of 10-days to respond to the panel’s unanswered questions.
  • Facebook states that it ‘appreciates the opportunity’ to share its practices ahead of the elections with the Parliamentary Committee.

Most social networking sites seem to be on their toes with the upcoming general elections in India but Twitter seems to be having a particularly difficult go of it coming under fire by the Indian government. India’s Parliamentary Committee has given Twitter a 10-day ultimatum to respond to the panel’s unanswered questions.

Now, senior officials from Facebook and its umbrella networks, Instagram and Whatsapp, have been summoned before the panel as well on March 6.

The social network issued a statement saying that it ‘appreciates the opportunity’ and will be happy to share the safeguards its put in place to ensure that the elections aren’t influenced in anyway.

“Facebook is deeply committed to India and to safeguarding our users and their rights on our family of apps. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to answer questions from the honourable parliamentary committee and to outline the specific steps we have taken to help ensure the safety of our users.”

Statement by Facebook spokesperson

There’s also reportedly a possibility that Twitter may have to observe a 48-hour ‘silent period’ in areas where the elections polls with be conducted.

The Twitter bias

The Parliamentary Committee had initially called Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey to address the panel on 25 February. While he declined to appear before the committee, Dorsey sent his vice president and global policy head, Colin Crowell, instead.

The Indian government’s concerns are that the elections should not be undermined or influenced by foreign entities. Protests by the Social Media Democracy against Twitter acquiring an anti-right attitude doesn’t help.

Twitter has already issued a statement to address the bias saying, “Twitter is a platform where voices from across the spectrum can be seen and heard. We are committed to the principles of openness, transparency, and impartiality. Our product and policies are never developed nor evolved on the basis of political ideology.”

According to PTI, Twitter informed the committee that it will be appointing a nodal officer who will work in collaboration with the Election Commission.

Facebook’s track record

Twitter isn’t the only social networking giant to come under fire for being biased. Last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal where Facebook harvested user data for without informed consent and used it for political purposes was a watershed moment that led to massive fall in the company’s stock and global calls for tighter regulation of user data and privacy.

Later that year, Facebook was the target of another data breach where 50 million Facebook accounts were exposed and another 40 million were pegged to be ‘at risk’.

Even its regulation practices have been called into question when its ‘secret rulebook’ was leaked.

Even the Facebook-owned messaging service, Whatsapp has been at odds with the Indian government after the spread of misinformation on the platform led to a series of lynchings in certain parts of the country.

The government asked Whatsapp to undo its end-to-end encryption of messages in order to track down the original sender of a message in cases of misinformation, which Whatsapp was unable to comply with.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have made public libraries where politic ads are catalogued as well as announced the launch of their respective transparency reports to provide ‘comprehensive information’ about who is purchasing politic ads and how much money is being spent.

See also:
Here's how global tech giants are tackling 'fake news' ahead of elections in the world's largest democracy

India sets up a panel to monitor fake news ahead of the general elections

Facebook ‘hits the street’ to verify political ads in India — but that might not be enough