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Delhi summons top Indian Facebook official over hateful content

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File photo of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on stage after a town hall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015. — Reuters pic
File photo of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on stage after a town hall at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015. — Reuters pic

NEW DELHI, Sept 12 — Delhi summoned Facebook’s India chief today to answer allegations that the social media giant failed to remove dangerous content in its biggest market globally.

India is the US-based firm and its messaging service WhatsApp’s biggest market in terms of users, and the company is under pressure worldwide over the policing of hate speech.

Facebook has been embroiled in a huge row in India after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported in August that the site failed to take down anti-Muslim comments by a politician from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in order to protect its business interests. 

The Delhi Assembly panel on peace and harmony said Saturday it would investigate evidence — described by the committee as “incriminating material on record” — submitted by four prominent journalists and digital rights activists.

The committee has asked Ajit Mohan, the managing director of Facebook India, to appear before it on September 15 to determine the “veracity of allegations” made by the group.

It follows US civil rights groups claiming last week that the firm had failed to address hateful content in India and demanded that its India policy chief, Ankhi Das, be removed.

Facebook has denied any political bias but admitted it has to do better to curb hate speech.

The panel — headed by Raghav Chadha, a lawmaker with a party rivalling Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s BJP v also said the firm should be probed over its “alleged role and complicity” in the sectarian Delhi riots in February.

Around 50 people, most of them Muslims, were killed in the worst unrest in years between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims.

After the furore over the WSJ’s August report, Facebook blocked T. Raja Singh, a BJP lawmaker who had said Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar should be shot.

Singh told AFP he would fight the ban and that Facebook’s action was an attack on BJP. — AFP

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