The parliamentary committee, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, will hear the views of officials from Facebook and Twitter 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”.
While the main issue is women’s security, members of the panel are likely to pose questions on other misuse of the two social media platforms. Facebook has been under fire recently for reports that data put on WhatsApp, which is owned by the Mark Zuckerberg owned company, will be shared with the parent group. This has raised privacy concerns and lakhs of users have moved to Signal and Telegram due to this apprehension.
Twitter has drawn the ire of BJP and the right-wing after it banned outgoing US President Donald Trump soon after a mob attacked Capitol Hill. BJP has questioned as to why some Twitter account holders who often post objectionable content are not removed. Some users have mentioned the case of Malaysian leader Mahatir Mohammad.
Members of parliamentary committees are free to question summoned officials on issues not related directly to the agenda listed for the day. This right is frequently exercised by members of these panels.
The IT Standing Committee has heard Facebook representatives during recent sittings where they were grilled on various issues pertaining to the functioning of the social media site in India. These include posting of inflammatory content by some Hindu right-wing groups during riots and elections. The members of the panel sought to know why some of these posts were not removed.
The IT panel as well as the Meenakshi Lekhi-headed Joint Committee of Parliament on Data Protection Bill have sought to know from Facebook representatives about their revenue model, whether the site considers itself a publisher or only an intermediary. Most importantly, questions have been raised on why data of Indian users is stored in the US.
The parliamentary panels have maintained that officials from most of these social media sites have failed to give satisfactory replies. The hearing of the IT panel scheduled for January 21 assumes significance in this regard.