Twitter’s troubles mount, India MD questioned by police

Troubles are mounting for Twitter in India, with the micro-blogging site yet to appoint key officials as mandated by the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which came into effect from May 26, 2021. Yesterday, officials said that with the non-compliance, Twitter stands to lose the immunity as an intermediary under the Indian laws and could be held accountable for any unlawful comment posted by users on the Twitter.

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Meanwhile, following an attack on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad a couple of days back, an FIR has been filed against Twitter, some journalists and Congress leaders for “provoking communal sentiments”. As per media reports, Twitter failed to flag the videos posted on its platform as misleading even as some journalists and Congress leaders shared the video as a communal incident. Police investigation revealed that the hooligans attacking the old man were also Muslims and it was not a communal incident.

The ‘Congress Toolkit’ case has also landed Twitter in a soup. Delhi Police had searched for Twitter officials in the National Capital to question then in this case, but were not able to find them. As per a Times of India report, following this, the Special Cell of Delhi Police went to Bangalore on May 31 and questioned Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Law & Justice, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology, lashed out at Twitter, calling its non-compliance a deliberate action. In a series of Tweets, Prasad stated, “Indian companies, be it pharma, IT or others that go to do business in USA or in other foreign countries, voluntarily follow the local laws. Then why are platforms like Twitter showing reluctance in following Indian laws designed to give voice to the victims of abuse and misuse?”

He added, “Further, what is perplexing is that Twitter fails to address the grievances of users by refusing to set up process as mandated by the law of the land. Additionally, it chooses a policy of flagging manipulates media, only when it suits, its likes and dislikes.”

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“It is astounding that Twitter, which portrays itself as the flag bearer of free speech, chooses the path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines,” Prasad further tweeted, and added that Twitter was given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however “it has deliberately chosen the path of non compliance”.

Prasad alleged that Twitter “chooses a policy of flagging manipulated media, only when it suits, its likes and dislikes”.

Industry Reacts

Amey Asuti, Founder and MD, Futuready Media said, "This face-off between the government of India and Twitter has far reaching ramifications on the freedom of speech in India. 

While many see this as an issue of compliance under the intermediary rules, it is about the power of the intermediary platforms that can shape destinies of people in power, influence public opinion and fell governments. Arab Spring and Donald Trump are just two examples that illustrate the power of Twitter. 

I'm all for a transparent and comprehensive public discussion leading to regulation of social media intermediaries. If Facebook and Google can comply with Indian laws, I see no real reason why Twitter needs more time. It would be prudent for the Indian Parliament to debate and settle this in the fairest traditions of our democracy."

Manesh Swamy, Vice President – Creative & Social, Logicserve Digital said, "Twitter is a very active platform and has been a primary platform for people worldwide to put across views, opinions, thoughts and more. Amongst the various popular social media platforms, Twitter is known for its credibility and niche audience. Now with the platform losing its legal immunity, this will affect brands on the platform. They will have to bring in some content publishing guidelines to stay put to the platform. But in the end, the decision has been passed by the Indian Government, which means brands will have to evolve and adapt to the new rules."


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