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Parliamentary panel on IT to summon Facebook, Twitter over data safety, banning accounts

WhatsApp, owned by Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook had recently changed its privacy policy, stating that Facebook will have access to WhatsApp user data, a step that had raised objections and criticism over several quarters.

The Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor will summon social media giants Facebook and Twitter over data sharing of users, alleged political interference and the changes in their privacy policy. As per reports, the standing committee has decided to summon social media giants Facebook and Twitter t explain their conduct in the recent days, in banning user accounts and sudden changes in privacy policy.

The decision by social media giants to ‘ban’ outgoing US President Donald Trump immediately after the Capitol Hill incident had raised concerns and opposition from all over the world. While many left-leaning politicians ane media persons had welcomed it, many world leaders and experts had raised concerns over the political bias and subsequent political interference by the social media companies.

Worldwide, several policymakers have been raising concerns that while social media companies like Twitter and Facebook claim that they are an intermediary, and claim to believe in ‘freedom of expression’, they have been increasingly behaving like censor and publishers. Concerns have been raised that with their control and ‘watchful eyes’ over the opinions and information that significant populations in most countries share, these companies may misuse it for their own gain, bias and goals. Businessmen, politicians and policy experts all over the world had expressed concern over the behaviour by Facebook and Twitter.

In a significant recent development, the government of Uganda had banned the social media giants ahead of their presidential elections. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had voiced that she finds the ban on Trump ‘problematic’ because ‘freedom of expression’ cannot be determined by the bosses of online platforms.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who leans towards the Left himself, said, “How can you censor someone? Let’s see, I, as the judge of the Holy Inquisition, will punish you because I think what you’re saying is harmful? Where is the law, where is the regulation, what are the norms? This is an issue of government. This is not an issue for private companies.”

WhatsApp change in privacy policy

WhatsApp, owned by Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook had recently changed its privacy policy, stating that Facebook will have access to WhatsApp user data, a step that had raised objections and criticism over several quarters. WhatsApp’s update message had included that user accounts will be dysfunctional if they do not agree to the new policy by February 8, 20201. Several Indian politicians have also voiced concerns over social media companies having the power to manipulate, withhold information and ‘ban’ users, a power that is certain to have political ramifications.

As per reports, the panel will send official notices on this regard soon. Reports have stated that the panel members have unanimously agreed upon the concerns over Twitter playing the role of publisher and censor. However, a schedule for the panel’s meetings is yet to be decided.

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