‘Get vaccinated, meet personally’: Parliamentary panel turns down Facebook's call for virtual meet

The parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology, headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, on Saturday, turned down social media giant Facebook’s request to appear for a virtual meeting, instead of physical representation, citing the company’s Covid policies. The committee also proposed that the Facebook officials who will be attending the meeting must get themselves vaccinated, sources said.

The dates for the said meeting have not been finalised yet. The parliamentary standing committee has also decided that all other social media and web platforms like YouTube, Google and the likes must send their representations physically before the panel.

In its response to the committee, Facebook said its officers could not appear before the committee as the company’s rules prohibit officials from attending any meeting, in person, during the second Covid wave. Meanwhile, Facebook officials have decided to appear online, sources said.

In view of this, the committee has now adopted a strict stance. All the members of the committee made it clear that no meeting can be held online and Facebook officials must be present physically. “Taking cognizance of Facebook’s reply, the chairman of the committee has sought a list of Facebook officials who the company wants to send before the committee. The chairman said the committee will provide vaccination to these officials and will also give enough time to come before the committee,” sources said. Asked about Facebook’s stance on the parliamentary panel’s decision, the company declined to comment.

On Friday, the committee had also called Twitter officials on similar issues and two of their senior officials also appeared before the committee physically.

In Friday’s meeting, both the officials of Twitter told the committee that they “give priority to the rules of their company, not law of the land”. The committee then asked Twitter officials to give all their answers in writing. However, the panel meeting date will be decided later this month. The committee is concerned about the misuse of social media platforms regarding the propagation of rumours and women’s safety.

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