The Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology will hear evidence from representatives from Facebook and Twitter today regarding “citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms.”
Panel Chairman Dr. Shashi Tharoor will preside over the hearing, which will focus on women’s safety online as well. India is Facebook’s largest market, drawing in 280 million users. Recently, the social media giant has come under criticism for its willingness to allow anti-Muslim hate speech from politicians affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in order to secure its investment.
Expect Tharoor, a senior member of the opposition party Indian National Congress (INC), to steer the hearing toward attacking the BJP. Last week, a leaked WhatsApp chat, which is owned by Facebook, revealed that Hindu-nationalist pundit Arnab Goswani had been in possession of the Modi government’s plans to bomb Balakot in Pakistan in February 2019. This constitutes a possible breach of national security and the INC will showcase its toughness on defence policy ahead of three parliamentary by-elections and various state-level contests this year.
This tactic, however, is unlikely to seriously erode the government’s credibility in defence matters since the BJP is widely perceived as the tougher party on India’s national rivals, namely China and Pakistan.
James is an analyst on the Current Developments Team, where he specialises in European and Indian politics. He is a regularly contributor to the Daily Brief