NEW DELHI: Even as the row over Facebook’s alleged right-wing bias intensified into a full-blown war of words between the BJP and Congress, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology issued summons to the social media giant to appear before it on September 2.
The summons pertain to the “misuse” of Facebook and not taking down hate-content posted by BJP leaders in violation of Facebook’s own policies on hate-speech.
The agenda for the meeting is “to hear the views of the representatives of Facebook on the subject ‘Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space.”
The House panel has also summoned representatives of the ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on same subject.
The notification followed the exchange of ‘breach of privilege’ notices between committee chairman Shashi Tharoor and BJP MP Nishikant Dubey.
While Dubey alleged that it was improper of Tharoor to have decided to summon Facebook without consulting other members of the parliamentary committee, Tharoor countered Dubey with a privilege notice of his own, accusing Dubey of using “contemptuous words”, which cast “aspersions on the intent and integrity” of the MP, which were “unwarranted vilification of the committee’s name”, and which painted an “ignominious picture” of Parliament by “indicating that its functionaries have circumvented the process that the MPs are expected to follow”.
Dubey, however, upped the ante on Thursday by writing to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla seeking Tharoor’s removal as chairman of the House panel on information technology. Citing Lok Sabha rules, Dubey sought Tharoor’s replacement.
He alleged, “Speaking in ‘Spencerian’ English with a foreign accent does not give freedom to an individual to not only disregard our glorious parliamentary institutions/organs to meet his own political ambitions but also to abuse our constitution.” He also alleged Tharoor had, since becoming House panel chief, been “running the affairs of the committee in a thoroughly unprofessional manner and to serve his political agenda of spreading rumours and defaming my party.”
Later in the day, BJP MP Rajyavardhan Rathore also shot off a letter to Birla against Tharoor for speaking in public about his intention to summon Facebook without discussing the matter in the parliamentary committee first.
“Issuing statements as to who would be summoned and what would be the agenda of the meeting is absolutely uncalled for and is violative of the procedures of the Lok Sabha. The proclivity of the IT committee chairman to speak to media first undermines the functioning of the committee members and the committee itself,” Rathore, a member of the standing committee on IT, said.
“Great organisations don’t see people as a commodity to be managed to help grow their money, they think of money as a commodity to be managed to help grow their people”.