The opposition Congress and the BJP have been sparring over a US media report that said Facebook favoured the ruling party in India.
The battle lines over allegations that Facebook’s content policies favoured the ruling BJP were drawn sharper on Wednesday. Hours after Congress leader Shashi Tharoor moved a notice for breach of privilege against BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, the lawmaker from the ruling party returned the favour.
Mr Dubey moved a notice for breach of privilege against Mr Tharoor and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, saying that while the former had “surpassed all limits of decency, ethics and basic tenets of parliamentary procedure”, the latter had “spread fake news and hatred”.
Shashi Tharoor, who heads the parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, had earlier alleged in his notice that Mr Dubey made “disparaging remarks” on social media over his decision to summon a panel meeting to discuss alleged “misconduct” of Facebook.
A breach of privilege motion can be moved by members against others for violating privileges granted as parliamentarians and if passed against a lawmaker, they result in action that can go up to expulsion from the house.
The feud between the two leaders flared up over the last two days after a report in The Wall Street Journal claimed that Facebook deliberately ignored disruptive content from members of the ruling BJP as well as right-wing voices and groups who have been “flagged internally”.
The report cited interviews with unnamed Facebook insiders to claim that one of its senior India policy executives had intervened in an internal communication to stop a permanent ban on a BJP MLA from Telangana after he allegedly made communally charged posts.
When Congress leader Rahul Gandhi re-tweeted the report on Sunday, Shashi Tharoor posted: “The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology would certainly wish to hear from @Facebook about these reports and what they propose to do about hate-speech in India.”
Mr Tharoor said the MPs’ panel would consider a testimony under the topic “Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”.
To which, the BJP’s Nishikant Dubey, who is a member of the panel, retorted: “The Chairman of the Standing Committee does not have the authority to do anything without discussion of the agenda with its members. Shashi Tharoor, stop Rahul Gandhi’s agenda without authorisation by the Committee and Speaker.”
Mr Dubey said a parliamentary panel “should not be made a political platform by members to satisfy the ego of their respective party leaders” and reportedly urged MPs of the BJP and its allies in the committee to write to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla against Shashi Tharoor.
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, however, backed the Congress MP. “Am IT committee member – agenda item was already agreed and bulletinised with Speaker’s approval at the beginning of the year. When to schedule each item and who to call is the chairman’s prerogative,” she tweeted.”Amazing how BJP jumps up and down at anything to do with FB’s interests!” she remarked.