The government on Wednesday took to Koo, the Made-in-India Twitter rival, to hit out at the social media giant after it lost its legal protection in the country from prosecution over users’ posts because of its failure to comply with new digital rules.
Twitter on Wednesday becomes the only American platform to have lost the protective shield – granted under Section 79 of the IT Act, even though others such as, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp remain protected. Companies had to originally appoint the officers by May 25, but many were delayed as they blamed the lockdown and other technical challenges for their failure to comply with the rules.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Electronics & Information Technology, too to Koo to say 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”.
“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,” he added.
The minister said the “simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May. Further, it was given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however it has deliberately chosen the path of non compliance”.
“What happened in U.P. was illustrative of Twitter’s arbitrariness in fighting fake news. While Twitter has been over enthusiastic about its fact checking mechanism, it’s failure to act in multiple cases like U.P. is perplexing as well as points towards its inconsistency in fighting misinformation,” the minister said. He was referring to a viral video of an elderly Muslim man claiming that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant “Vande Mataram” and “Jai Shri Ram”. Police, however, have ruled out any “communal angle”.
Twitter and several journalists have been named in an FIR for “flaring communal sentiments”, with police saying Twitter did not delete the tweet despite a clarification by the Ghaziabad police.
Ruling out any communal angle in the case, the UP Police said Sufi Abdul Samad, the elderly man, was attacked by six men – Hindus and Muslims – who were unhappy over the amulets he had sold them. The FIR mentions several journalists – Rana Ayyub, Saba Naqvi and Mohammed Zubair as well as online news platform “The Wire”.
Sharpening his attack on Twitter, Prasad said: “Indian companies be it Pharma or 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?”
“The rule of law is the bedrock of Indian society. India’s commitment to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech was yet again reaffirmed at the G7 summit. However, if any foreign entity believes that they can portray itself as the flag bearer of free speech in India to excuse itself from complying with the law of the land, such attempts are misplaced.”