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Indian Parliamentary Panel to Question Facebook on Regulation of Political Content Following Controversy

Ankhi Das with Mark Zuckerberg. (Image: Facebook)

Ankhi Das with Mark Zuckerberg. (Image: Facebook)

Facebook and its top lobbying executive in India, Ankhi Das, are facing criticism after a news report said she opposed applying hate-speech rules to a politician from India's ruling party.

An Indian parliamentary committee will question Facebook executives on how the social media giant regulates political content in the country, a panel member told Reuters on Friday, following controversy about its practices.

Facebook and its top lobbying executive in India, Ankhi Das, are facing criticism after a news report said she opposed applying hate-speech rules to a politician from India's ruling party.

Facebook has been summoned to appear on Sept. 2 before the information technology panel, which considers issues like social media abuse. The discussion with Facebook will last for 30 minutes, according to a notice published late on Thursday.

"The subject is serious because of Facebook's extensive reach in India ... and the potential for hate speech to incite violence and other unlawful behaviour," said the panel member, who declined to be identified.

"How worrying this is, is to be determined after a hearing process is concluded."

Facebook - which has more than 300 million users in India, its biggest market - did not respond to a request for comment.

Facebook has long faced criticism for high-profile content moderation issues.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Das told staff that applying hate-speech rules to politicians close to India's ruling party "would damage the company's business prospects in the country".

Facebook has been battling political fallout in India since.

The opposition Congress Party criticised Facebook for its policies, while some ruling-party lawmakers have accused it of censoring nationalist voices.

Separately, Reuters this week reported that some Facebook employees in the United States and beyond have raised questions in internal forums about whether adequate content regulation practices are being followed by the India team and demanded some changes.

Facebook's soon-to-be-operational content Oversight Board, which some have dubbed the company's "Supreme Court", said it was committed to protecting users.

"How Facebook treats posts from public figures that may violate the Community Standards are within the scope of the Board," the board told Reuters in a statement.

"We won't shy away from the tough cases and holding Facebook accountable," said the board, which has powers to overturn decisions by the company and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on whether individual pieces of content should be allowed or not.

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