Amidst the ongoing tussle between the Central government and Twitter, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has summoned representatives of the micro-blogging site to appear before it on June 18. The panel has also called officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to present their version on the ongoing controversies.
“This will be a continuation of discussions with the social media groups. The panel will discuss the IT regulation rules and some of the recent developments, including the manipulated media controversy, the Twitter’s India officials being questioned by Delhi Police and the intermediary guidelines and their compliance,” said a source in Parliament.
According to the agenda finalised, the panel will “hear the views of representatives of Twitter followed by evidence of representatives of Ministry of Electronics and IT on the subject safeguarding citizens rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms, including special emphasis on women security in digital space”.
The IT panel, chaired by Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, is calling Twitter officials for seeking the social media firm’s explanation as well as its views on a range of issues.
Twitter has been involved in a tussle with the Indian government since February after the Union technology ministry asked it to block content alleging PM Modi’s administration was trying to silence criticism related to farmers’ protests in the country. Following that, India announced new rules that aim to make social media firms more accountable to legal requests for swift removal of posts and require the appointment of an Indian grievance officer to deal with complaints.
The differences between the government and the firm took another turn when Twitter classified some of the posts made by the BJP leaders as “manipulated media”, triggering sharp responses from the government. The controversy then led to Twitter flagging concerns about freedom of expression and the safety of its staff in India after Delhi Police visited its offices in New Delhi. Twitter also earned the ire of the ruling party and its supporters when it had briefly removed the “blue tick” verification badge from the personal account of Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
In the first week of June, the Centre issued “one last notice” to Twitter over appointing India-based officers as per the country’s new rules for social media companies, failing which, the government said, it will face “consequences” as per the IT Act and other penal laws.
In an interview to The Indian Express recently, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the IT rules were also to provide women who were victims of social media abuse and misuse with an avenue to raise their complaints and take some action. He quoted Supreme Court’s orders in which it had observed that various messages and content being shared and spread on platforms, run by intermediaries, are harmful and can spread violence.
The court, Prasad had then said, had noted that social media had become a source of large amount of pornography, drugs, weapons and other contraband. And it was due to these specific circumstances that a properly-framed regime to find out the persons, institutions or bodies responsible for such messages was found.
“Victims must be given a forum for redressal in India. A mother says the ex-lover of my daughter has put her old photos on the internet. Or a woman complains that my morphed images are being circulated. Do I, as a minister, tell them to go to the US to raise these issues?” Prasad had said.