Delhi summons top Facebook India official in hate speech probe

Delhi assembly's panel on peace and harmony to seek Ajit Mohan's response over allegations of 'incriminating material'.

    US civil rights groups have called for removal of Ankhi Das, Facebook's public policy director for India, South and Central Asia [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]
    US civil rights groups have called for removal of Ankhi Das, Facebook's public policy director for India, South and Central Asia [Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

    The administration in India's capital has summoned Facebook's country chief to answer allegations that it failed to remove hateful content on its platform.

    The Delhi state assembly's panel on peace and harmony on Saturday said it would investigate evidence - described by the committee as "incriminating material on record" - submitted by four prominent journalists and digital rights activists.

    The committee has asked Ajit Mohan, the managing director of Facebook India, to appear before it on September 15 to determine the "veracity of allegations" made by the group.

    Facebook has been embroiled in a huge dispute in India after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported in August that the site failed to take down anti-Muslim comments by a politician from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in order to protect its business interests.

    Following the WSJ report, an Indian parliamentary committee also grilled Mohan last week over the company's pro-BJP bias.

    Meanwhile, Facebook blocked T Raja Singh, a BJP legislator who had called India's Muslims traitors, threatened to demolish mosques and said Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar should be shot.

    Singh told AFP news agency he would fight the ban and that Facebook's action was an attack on the BJP.

    Facebook has denied any political bias but admitted it has to do better to curb hate speech.

    India is the United States-based Facebook and its messaging service WhatsApp's biggest market in terms of users, and the company is under pressure worldwide over the policing of hate speech.

    The Delhi government's move follows US civil rights groups claiming this week that the social media giant failed to address hateful content in India and demanded that its India policy chief, Ankhi Das, be removed.

    The panel - headed by Raghav Chadha, a legislator with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) party that rivals Prime Minister's Narendra Modi's BJP - also said the firm should be probed over its "alleged role and complicity" in the Delhi riots in February.

    Around 50 people, most of them Muslims, were killed in the capital's worst unrest in decades, which erupted as thousands were protesting against a controversial citizenship law passed by Modi's BJP last year.

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    SOURCE: News agencies