The Parliamentary Standing Committee for Women Empowerment has called upon social media platforms Twitter and Facebook to discuss issues of “online safety of women and children”, sources told tech2.

The Parliamentary Committees, which acts like a “mini parliament” gives the report to the Lower House or the Speaker, and plays an important role in giving recommendations and making policies.

Officials of Twitter have been asked to appear on Wednesday (4 December), and Facebook has been called upon on Thursday (5 December), the sources said. “They want to know what are the social media companies doing about women and children harassment, trolling and stalking of women,” said the source. “They want to understand what measures are you taking to prevent this from happening.”

Parliamentary Committee of Women calls upon Twitter, Facebook over online safety concerns

Image: Reuters

The development comes at a time when the social media companies, world over, are being targeted for spreading hate speeches, abusive content, and trolling. India, too, is in the process of making intermediary rules stricter and hold social media companies accountable for the content on the platforms.

(Also read: Facebook, Google under scrutiny by the EU on data collection, monetisation practises)

Mails sent to Twitter and Facebook did not elicit any reply till the time of publication. The story will be updated if the companies respond.

Meanwhile, LocalCircles, an independent community engagement and social media platform for constructive causes, has written two letters (in possession with tech2) to the Parliamentary Committee highlighting, which might also become points of discussion. One of the letters said that, in the last three years, LocalCircles has witnessed hundreds of cases of abuse, sexual harassment, hate, trolling on social media in India, many of those against women.

(Also read: TikTok apologises for taking down teen’s account containing viral video on Uighurs in China)

In a survey, where 58,000 voted from across the country, 59 percent citizens said real identity should be made mandatory for all accounts to reduce trolling. Almost 50 percent citizens feel social media platforms should also be held liable if a user engages in trolling or abusive and hate content dissemination, and 89 percent citizens said social media platforms should proactively remove offensive, hate and rumour-based content. Also, 78 percent of voters said platforms like Twitter and Facebook should be responsible for taking action against accounts that are engaged in trolling, abuse and harassment of other citizens.

(Also read: Google and Facebook’s business models are a threat to human rights: Amnesty International)

In the second letter, LocalCircles emphasised on making real identities mandatory on social media platforms. It said that LocalCircles has received many inputs and complaints from citizens who are concerned about the safety of children on social media. It said that while Facebook is the first app that people usually download; apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok, Bigo Live, among others are getting popular among children between ages 10-15.

In a survey, where 23,000 voted, show 73 percent citizens don’t want children to have any access to social media till the age of 15 years. About 82 percent voters want the Government and schools to define and enforce a minimum age for children to have social media access, and that an overwhelming 59 percent were not in favour of children between ages 11-13 to have social media accounts.

LocalCircles in the letter demands that the Parliament considers raising the minimum age of a child to join social media to 15 years, in place of the existing 13 years. It is also suggested that social media platforms should be subjected to strict accountability and enforcement standards with a mandatory requirement to have robust age verification mechanisms so under-age children are unable to sign up.

“A large number of citizens have been raising the concern about children in India getting access to social media too early in our LocalCircles communities,” said Sachin Taparia, Founder and Chairman of LocalCircles. “According to some members the addiction has gotten so bad for some children that they are going through rehabilitation programs.”

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