Facebook Vice President Joel Kaplan is expected to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on IT hearing on Wednesday, 6 March, to explain the company’s policies on “safeguarding citizen rights on social media platforms”.
However, a member of the committee had told The Quint after the Twitter hearing on the same issue on 25 February that “there is no meaning in these meetings” and that these summons, are “nothing but a waste of public expenditure”.
The Committee has summoned the representatives of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram on 6 March. Both WhatsApp and Instagram are owned by Facebook.
The Parliamentary Committee on IT that met on Monday, 25 February, to question Twitter VP Colin Crowell saw fewer than one-third of the members in attendance. According to the Lok Sabha website, only nine of the 31 members were present.
‘Meetings Would Have Little Results’
In CEO Jack Dorsey’s absence, Twitter was represented by global policy head Colin Crowell.
Dorsey skipped the last two summons (25 Feb and 11 Feb) by the Parliamentary panel who sought his attendance to question him on “safeguarding citizen rights” on the social media platform. While the subject matter appears broad, its primary focus will be to investigate whether the platform has muzzled right-wing speech.
According to the Parliamentary panel member, who wanted to remain anonymous, these meetings would have little results at a time when the Lok Sabha has dissolved, and when the Parliament won’t be meeting before the 2019 general elections.
During a meeting of the committee on 11 February, BJP MP Anurag Thakur, who’s chairing the panel, had said that they had taken “very serious note” of Dorsey’s absence, and had even tweeted that “appropriate action will be taken”.
“There is no meaning in these meetings at a time when the Parliament is not in session anymore. We are supposed to submit a report of these hearings to the Parliament, but I don’t know how that will happen since the Parliament will meet only after the elections.”Member, Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology
The committee had asked Twitter to ensure that the upcoming Lok Sabha elections are “not undermined and influenced by foreign entities” – and granted 10 days to Dorsey to respond in writing to questions that remained unanswered. Thakur also indicated that they may be summoned again before the committee.
The member said the entire exercise would amount to little.
“When the Parliament will meet after the elections, we may have a new panel with new members. Then, what’s the use of this meeting?”Member, Parliamentary Committee on IT
22 Out of 31 Members Missing
This member’s reservations appear to find echo in the sparse attendance at the last meeting when Twitter had deposed before it.
Out of the 31 members, 21 are from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha. On 25 February, however, only six from the Lok Sabha, including chairman Anurag Thakur, and three from the upper house showed up.
Out of 10 committee members that The Quint reached out to, nine confirmed that they did not attend Monday’s meeting. Most of them said they were in their home constituencies – and had decided against traveling to New Delhi for the meeting.
“I could not go for the meeting because of a core committee meeting of my party today. But I will be going for the meeting with WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram on 6 March,” another committee member told The Quint.