Facebook India head Ajit Mohan told the parliamentary panel on Wednesday, December 16, that the social media giant had found no reason to act against the Bajrang Dal - a right-wing outfit with ties to the ruling BJP, despite an internal security team tagging it as dangerous for inciting violence against minorities.
Mohan was originally summoned by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology to discuss the security and safety of user data.
During the hearing Congress MP Karti Chidambaram cited a report by The Wall Street Journal that mentioned Facebook had permitted Bajrang Dal to increase its presence on the social media platform because "cracking down... might endanger both the company's business prospects and its staff in India".
Mohan told the panel members that the company's fact-checking team had not found any content posted by Bajrang Dal that violated its social media policies.
The Wall Street Journal report had referred to a video in which the Bajrang Dal claimed responsibility for an attack on a church outside Delhi in June.
"Besides risking infuriating India's ruling Hindu nationalist politicians, banning Bajrang Dal might precipitate physical attacks against Facebook...," the Journal mentioned.
"A group of Facebook's employees said in an internal letter and posts on Facebook discussion groups that the presence of Bajrang Dal on its platform, among other organisations, casts doubt on the company's commitment to tackle hate speech in India," it said.
In August, the Journal had reported on an alleged bias in Facebook's policies that supported the ruling BJP. Citing business reasons, Facebook's top official in India 'opposed applying hate-speech rules' to individuals and groups linked with the BJP, the report mentioned.
The journal alleged that former Facebook executive Ankhi Das came out in support of a leader of the BJP who made anti-Muslim comments.
According to the report, Das had told the staff members that 'punishing violations by BJP politicians would damage the company's business prospects in the country, Facebook's biggest global market by a number of users.'
Facebook, however, denied all charges and defended itself in front of a parliamentary committee against allegations of bias and concerns about the safety of user data. Soon after, Das also resigned from the company.
In response to the Wall Street Journal report, Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said: "We enforce our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy globally without regard to a political position or party affiliation."