- Delhi panel, stung by the response, said it would deliver "final warning"
- Response of Facebook officials was read out at panel's open hearing
- Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Raghav Chadha heads the committee
Facebook executives today skipped a hearing of the Delhi Assembly's "Peace and Harmony" committee saying they have already appeared before a parliamentary panel and the subject comes under the centre. The Delhi panel, stung by the response, said it would deliver "a final warning" to the social networking giant over the no-show.
A written response of Facebook officials was read out at the committee's open hearing at the Delhi assembly this afternoon. The letter said the officials had already deposed before the committee of MPs earlier this month and since parliament was seized of the matter, the Delhi Assembly committee should withdraw its summons.
"The regulation of intermediaries like Facebook fall within exclusive authority of the Union of India. Given that the matters are under consideration by Parliament, we object to the Notice and request you recall it," Facebook India said in a letter to the panel.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Raghav Chadha, who heads the committee, remarked that Facebook had "broadly suggested that since IT and law and order were under the union government, the Delhi assembly should not get into it".
Members slammed what they called "insult and contempt" of the elected Delhi Assembly by Facebook officials. Facebook's assertion was an "erroneous reading", the panel members said, insisting that the committee was well within its rights to summon the executives to answer serious charges linked to the February Delhi riots.
Mr Chadha said top official Ajit Mohan had been asked to appear and respond to allegations that Facebook was not just selective in its application of community standards but "actively fanned the flames" during the violence.
"This is an issue of Delhi, how can Facebook say that it's not the domain of this committee? Facebook's statement that parliament is seized of the matter is untenable. The state legislature functions independent of parliament. Your refusal to appear before this committee is an attempt to conceal the role (of Facebook) in the Delhi riots," said the committee. A member accused the company of overstepping its authority and giving an "unfortunate, vague and evasive reply".
Raghav Chadha said fresh summons would be issued to Facebook executives in line with principles of natural justice. If they did not comply with the fresh summons, said members, they "should be forced to appear through coercive actions".
The Delhi Assembly panel on Peace and Harmony decided to summon Facebook officials while looking into complaints about the social networking site's alleged "deliberate and intentional inaction to contain hateful content" in India.
Mr Chadha said the committee, with its open hearings, offered unprecedented transparency when it came to meetings of public importance. "If they are unwilling to appear before us, then all we can say is chor ki daadi mein tinka (the thief has something to hide)," he remarked.
US media reports recently cited interviews with unnamed Facebook insiders to allege that rules against hate speech were not applied in the case of inflammatory posts by BJP leaders and rightwing activists.