House Panel to meet social media company representatives today

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NEW DELHI: The Parliamentary Standing Committee for Women Empowerment will hold discussions with executives of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter on how to tackle bullying, stalking, abuse and harassment of women on social media.

Some MPs in the panel told ET that they have asked company representatives, who will meet them on Wednesday and Thursday, to explain anti-stalking and anti-morphing tools used to make cyberspace safe for women. The panel has also finalised 12 issues of concern, which will be debated over time, including gender pay imbalance, utilisation of Nirbhaya fund, working of insurance and maternity schemes for women, condition of women in police stations and others.

“Twitter can be a powerful tool for women to make connections and express themselves. But the abuse many women experience on the platform leads them to have bad experiences. Apart from this, there are very real dangers of women being stalked online,” said an MP.

After a meeting last month, the committee led by BJP MP Heena Gavit had concluded that social media companies had to do more to support users who report harassment.

The MPs were informed about measures taken by the home and women and child development ministries to counter cybercrime. They also decided to visit police stations to study working conditions of policemen and women, and talk to victims of cybercrime. The committee has also decided to ask social media companies to increase their outreach to women to create general awareness on financial crimes.

“Women are also targets of scams and trafficking, apart from receiving offensive graphic or insulting messages or images.

They get private photos posted without consent. Sometimes they receive repeated messages from stalkers and often don’t know what to do,” said an MP.

A Facebook official said the company has developed features to keep people safe from harassment, along with community guidelines. “We also work with women’s safety organisations and our product has developed features that prevent unwanted contact. We have the lock feature to prevent profile photos being shared, and there are options to ignore a messenger conversation, hide or delete comments.”

Earlier this year, Twitter was asked by the standing committee on IT to present its views on safeguarding citizens’ rights on social/online news media platforms after a ‘volunteer group’ alleged that Twitter was ‘biased against pro-BJP accounts’.