10:26 GMT26 February 2021
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    While mobile apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have made the lives of millions of people easier, they have also exposed them to certain cyber vulnerabilities.

    In a bid to discuss ways to prevent the exploitation and misuse of social networking apps, a parliamentary panel in India has summoned tech giants Facebook and Twitter for 21 January. The parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology (IT) is headed by Congressman Shashi Tharoor and is comprised of 31 members.

    The subject of the meeting as decided is “Safeguarding citizens' rights and prevention of misuse of social or online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space”, a notice issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat reads.

    The summon reached Facebook and Twitter two months after the Indian government issued an order bringing the regulation of online news portals under the authority of the federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as an initial step aiming to regulate the spread of fake news via digital media. 

    As mentioned in the subject of the meeting’s agenda, the panel members are also planning to discuss the subject of women's security online – a topic that gained limelight after several female public figures in India were subjected to severe abuse and hate for speaking up.

    It is expected that the panel will also question the representatives of the giants about the policy related to the banning/suspension of user accounts. Hours after Twitter and Facebook announced the permanent suspension of US President Donald Trump’s account, parliamentarians launched a campaign reiterating their previous demand for the introduction of strong regulations to control such companies.

    For Facebook, this summon comes at an especially crucial time when its messaging app WhatsApp has been in hot water across the globe, including in India, over its new privacy policy update. 

    In its “mandatory” update, WhatsApp informed its users that it will be sharing user data like device location and contact details for chats shared on its “Business” app that was launched back in 2018, dedicated to businesses so that merchants and buyers can instantly connect online.

    While the Indian government is deliberating summoning WhatsApp and its parent Facebook to discuss this update, the subject is stirring major panic among Indian netizens who have begun encouraging each other to quit the messaging app and shift to other alternatives like Signal and Telegram. 

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