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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Social media platforms must respect law of land: Ravi Shankar Prasad

The government, Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, was committed to freedom of media and rights of individuals but it was equally concerned about safety, security, and law and order in the country.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: February 12, 2021 1:28:50 am
Minister of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad speaks in Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Thursday. (Photo: ANI/RSTV grab)

Amid the face-off between the government and microblogging platform Twitter, Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Thursday accused social media platforms of “double standards” in their approach to recent events at the US Capitol Hill and the Red Fort on Republic Day.

While replying to questions in the Rajya Sabha, Prasad said, “We have flagged Twitter and are in dialogue with them. Why is it that when the police have to act in US Capitol Hill they stand in support, but when similar action is taken at Red Fort, they oppose it? Freedom of speech is there, but with reasonable restrictions. Why the double standards?”

The minister was referring to the recent government emergency order to Twitter to block over 1,300 handles for allegedly spreading misinformation and provocative content in the aftermath of the violence witnessed during the tractor march carried out by the protesting farmers in Delhi on January 26.

While Twitter has suspended more than 500 accounts, it has not acted against accounts of news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians on the ground that it “would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law”.

Reacting to Twitter’s stance, Prasad said in Parliament, “When you become a platform, you make your own law and India’s laws will have no place in it? That is not how it works. You bring money and do business, but you have to respect the law of the land.”

On Wednesday, the IT Ministry had expressed strong displeasure over Twitter’s response to the government’s emergency order.

Prasad also mentioned Koo, a homemade version of the social networking platform which many ministers and departments of the Union government have started moving to in the wake of the government’s face-off with Twitter. He called it a “big success”.

Asserting the government’s commitment to free speech and individual freedom, the minister said, “This government is led by leaders who have fought for the freedom of individuals, freedom of media, independence of the judiciary… This includes our Prime Minister, Rajnath Singh ji, Prakash Javadekar and also me. Our commitment to freedom of media is complete and total. But we are equally concerned about the security and sovereignty of India.”

Speaking on steps taken to curb fake news and messages, he added: “We respect social media. It has empowered common people. We respect criticism… you can criticise even the Prime Minister. But if social media is used to propagate hate, then action will be taken.”

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