Facebook officials to appear before parliamentary panel today over safeguarding user data

Facebook V-P Joel Kaplan (Global Public Policy) will appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday. 

Facebook officials to appear before parliamentary panel today over safeguarding user data

NEW DELHI: Facebook Vice-President Joel Kaplan (Global Public Policy) will appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology (IT) on Wednesday to elaborate what it and its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram are doing to safeguard the citizen rights across platforms. 

Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director of Facebook India, and Ankhi Das, Director (Public, Policy and Programmes) will accompany Kaplan, according to sources. 

CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg are not travelling to India for the hearing, the sources said. 

The Facebook officials’ presentation will follow the appearance of Colin Crowell, Global Vice-President (Public Policy) of Twitter, before the Anurag Thakur-led panel on February 25. 

Crowell had spoken about how the micro-blogging site would help address issues like political bias and manipulation on its platform.

The panel had on Monday asked micro-blogging site Twitter to address issues in real-time and engage more with the Election Commission of India (ECI) ahead of general election 2019 and also summoned senior officials of other social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to appear before it on March 6. 

This was informed by Anurag Thakur, chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, after a nearly three-and-a-half-hour meeting with Global Vice President of Public Policy for Twitter Colin Crowell and other officials of the micro-blogging platform. 

Thakur said Twitter officials were asked to “engage more” with the ECI and address issues on a “real-time” basis. 

The Twitter officials were told that there should not be any “international interference” in the Lok Sabha polls. 

Sources said the social media platform was categorically asked to ensure the forthcoming elections are not undermined and influenced by foreign entities. 

This message to the micro-blogging site was in an apparent reference to numerous complaints of interference by social media platforms in the US elections, they said.

As the country gears up for general election, global social media platforms are discussing how to curb misinformation and fake news in a country where mobile penetration has helped Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram reach millions of users. Facebook has close to 300 million users and WhatsApp over 200 million. According to statista.com, Instagram has nearly 75 million users in India.

In the runup to the Lok Sabha polls, Facebook has introduced a new tool to bring transparency to ads related to politics. Anyone who runs ads related to politics will have to reveal their identity and location to pass the authorization process and have a “Published by” or “Paid for by” label.