Having faced governmental hearings across the world over its data policies and privacy concerns last year, Facebook has said it now ready to answer to India’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology in a hearing to be held in March.
The company along with its subsidiaries, Instagram and WhatsApp, has been summoned on March 6 as the government seeks to check the spread of misinformation and fake news on their platforms ahead of the general elections.
The company has reportedly said that it welcomes the opportunity to answer questions from the parliamentary committee to outline the specific steps the company has undertaken to help ensure the safety of its users.
“Facebook is deeply committed to India and to safeguarding our users and their rights on our family of apps. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to answer questions from the honourable parliamentary committee and to outline the specific steps we have taken to help ensure the safety of our users,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
This week Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was also summoned by India’s parliamentary panel and now the committee will also call on Facebook and WhatsApp to examine its plans for general elections in India. During the hearing on February 25, Twitter was represented by Colin Crowell, head of global policy and philanthropy, and the company was asked to engage more actively with the Election Commission and respond to fake news and inflammatory posts in “real time” as the country heads into general elections.
Facebook said that ahead of the general elections, it is making big changes to ads that reference political figures, political parties, elections and ads that advocate for or against legislation.
In December 2018, Facebook said it will vet every political advertiser on its platform. An advertiser who wants to run an ad in India related to politics will need to first confirm their identity and location along with details about who placed the ad.
The company will show a disclaimer on all political ads that provide more information about who’s placing the ad and an online searchable Ad Library for anyone to access. The policy was set to come into effect from February 21, 2019.
Earlier,the Indian Government had asked WhatsApp to allow more insight of online discourse, even though it meant violating end-to-end encryption policy of the social messaging service. WhatsApp’s parent company, Facebook reportedly refused to comply with the Government’s demands, putting it in risk of facing shutdown in its largest market.
In 2023, the number of Facebook users in India is expected to reach 444.2 Mn, up from 281 Mn in 2018.
[The development was reported by ET.]