MPs brawl on twitter after Congress talks of ‘summoning’ Facebook for ‘favouring BJP and RSS’

Srinagar: A day after Indian National Congress senior leader and Member of Parliament (MP) Shashi Tharoor said that Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from Facebook about its content policies favouring the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), three MPs began a verbal brawl over the issue on social media platform Twitter.

Reacting to the speech by Shashi Tharoor, a BJP MP Nishikant Dubey attacked the Congress leader saying he had no right to do so without authorization.

Dubey, according to reports, has urged MPs of the BJP and its allies in the committee to write to the Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla against Shashi Tharoor.

The development came after The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook deliberately ignored disruptive content from members of the ruling BJP as well as right-wing voices and groups who have been “flagged internally”.

However, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra backed the Congress MP.

The Wall Street Journal report cited interviews with unnamed Facebook insiders to claim that its senior India policy executives Ankhi Das, “intervened” in internal content review processes to stop a ban on BJP’s Telangana MLA T Raja Singh for communal posts targeting Muslims.

When Congress leader Rahul Gandhi re-tweeted the report on Sunday, Shashi Tharoor posted: “The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from @Facebook about these reports and what they propose to do about hate-speech in India.”

Tharoor said the MPs’ panel would consider a testimony under the topic “Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”.

To which, the BJP’s Nishikant Dubey, who is a member of the panel, retorted: “The Chairman of the Standing Committee does not have the authority to do anything without discussion of the agenda with its members. Shashi Tharoor, stop Rahul Gandhi’s agenda without authorisation by the Committee and Speaker.”

Dubey said a parliamentary panel “should not be made a political platform by members to satisfy the ego of their respective party leaders”.

The BJP member’s comments provoked a sharp response from Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, also a member of the Standing Committee on IT.

“Am IT, committee member – agenda item was already agreed and bulletinised with Speaker’s approval at the beginning of the year. When to schedule each item and who to call is the chairman’s prerogative,” she tweeted.

“Amazing how BJP jumps up and down at anything to do with FB’s interests!” she remarked

Tharoor, responding to Mahua Moitra’s tweet, posted: “You are absolutely right…by imputing motives to my decision, Nishikant Dubey has brought the Committee’s work into disrepute, a matter I will take up. Extraordinary that an MP would suggest that a matter of such great public interest should NOT be taken up by us!”

Nishikant Dubey responded to both. “Please read rule 269, regards,” he said to Mahua Moitra. The rule, according to a screenshot tweeted by Ms Moitra, says: “A witness may be summoned by an order signed by the Secretary-General and shall produce such documents as are required for the use of a committee.”

On Tharoor’s tweet, he said: “Thanks for your comment, time will tell who brought the committee’s work into disrepute Mr. Chairman.”

On August 17, a day after senior India policy executive for social media giant Facebook, Ankhi Das, “intervened” in internal content review processes to stop a ban on BJP’s Telangana MLA T Raja Singh for communal posts targeting Muslims, the Facebook company spokesperson has said that its policies are not in favour of anyone.

The Facebook spokesperson said that it enforces policies globally without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation.

Earlier, taking a dig at the remark by BJP’s Telangana MLA, the former president of Indian National Congress and leader of the opposition, Rahul Gandhi said that BJP leader is “spreading hate and use it to influence the electorate.”

In a tweet, Gandhi said: “they spread fake news and hatred through it and use it to influence the electorate. Finally, the American media has come out with the truth about Facebook”.

In another tweet, he said: “BJP-RSS controls Facebook and WhatsApp in India. Through this, they lure voters by spreading false news and hate. After all, the American media has exposed the truth of Facebook.”

Soon after the tweets from Congress leaders, BJP minister Ravi Shankar Prasad slammed Gandhi and replied to his tweet saying; “Losers who cannot influence people even in their own party keep cribbing that the entire world is controlled by BJP & RSS. You were caught red-handed in alliance with Cambridge Analytica & Facebook to weaponise data before the elections & now have the gall to question us?”

This comes a day after Gandhi said that the BJP and its ideological parent the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) control Facebook and WhatsApp in India.


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