Social media misuse: Facebook, Google representatives depose before parliamentary committee

Facebook's country public policy director Shivnath Thukral and general counsel Namrata Singh deposed before the panel on Tuesday.

Published: 29th June 2021 05:19 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th June 2021 11:08 PM   |  A+A-

Social Media

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NEW DELHI: Facebook and Google representatives Tuesday deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology over the issue of social media misuse and safeguarding citizens' rights, with sources saying they were told to comply with the new IT rules, government instructions and court orders.

The panel, chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, had asked them to appear in-person at the parliament secretariat here.

The sources also said the representatives were conveyed that there are loopholes in their existing data protection and privacy policy mechanism, and that they need to put in place stringent safeguards to protect data privacy and data security of their users.

While Facebook's country public policy director Shivnath Thukral and general counsel Namrata Singh appeared before the panel on behalf of the company, search engine Google was represented by its country head (government affairs and public policy) Aman Jain and director (legal) Gitanjali Duggal.

The agenda of the parliamentary panel meeting was to safeguard citizens' rights and prevent the misuse of social/online news media platforms.

The sources said that Tharoor expressed concern about the privacy of women users of social media platforms.

He said he has also received complaints from several women MPs in this regard.

Later, Google said in a statement that it has consistently invested in product changes, resources and personnel as part of its efforts to keep users safe in compliance with the local laws in India.

"We always welcome opportunities to engage in dialogue with the policy makers and share details of our efforts in combating illegal content and ensuring the safety of users across our platforms," a Google spokesperson said.

The spokesperson further stated: "We have consistently invested in significant product changes, resources and personnel, and have made significant progress in balancing the openness of our platforms with the responsibility of keeping the community safe in compliance with the local laws in the country."

Comments from Facebook were not immediately available.

Tharoor also expressed displeasure over some members of panel being quoted in the media to report about the proceedings, with sources saying the MPs present in the meeting agreed the confidentiality clause should be adhered to.

Earlier, Facebook representatives had informed the parliamentary panel that their company policy does not allow their officials to attend in-person meetings because of their Covid-related protocol.

But Tharoor conveyed to Facebook that its officials will have to appear in-person since the parliament secretariat does not allow any virtual meetings.

Facebook and Google representatives were called days after Twitter officials deposed before the panel.

In the last meeting, several members of the panel had categorically told Twitter that the rule of land is supreme not the social media platform's policies.

Also on Tuesday, the parliamentary panel asked Twitter to explain with 48 hours why it had blocked access of Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Tharoor to their accounts, the sources said.

Last week, Twitter had blocked Union Information and Technology Minister Prasad from accessing his account which ratcheted up tensions with the government as it came under renewed attack for not following local laws.


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