Updated: June 16, 2021 4:38:03 pm
“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,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Electronics & Information Technology said in a statement on posted on the social media platform.
Prasad made the post after reports highlighting that Twitter was likely set to lose its ‘safe harbour’ which is granted to social media intermediaries. While Prasad questioned Twitter on its refusal to comply with the new IT Rules 2021, which were notified in February, he was non-committal on whether Twitter has lost its status as a social media intermediary.
Earlier The Indian Express reported quoting sources that, “the government believes that whoever has not yet complied with the guidelines has lost the intermediary status.” The source also added that in Twitter’s “any and all penal action that is applicable under the Indian Penal Code will be applicable.”
Meanwhile, Twitter issued a statement saying that it has appointed an “interim chief compliance officer” and will be sharing details with the Ministry directly soon. The statement adds that Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with the new guidelines.
In a thread posted on Twitter, Prasad said that there are “numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision,” and added that the “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.”
He also said that the social media platform was given “given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however it has deliberately chosen the path of non compliance.”
“The culture of India varies like its large geography. In certain scenarios, with the amplification of social media, even a small spark can cause a fire, especially with the menace of fake news. This was one of the objectives of bringing the Intermediary Guidelines,” he added.
The minister also alleged bias on behalf of Twitter and called it out for labelling some content as manipulated media, while not doing so with the other content. “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 wrote.
The minister also mentioned the recent incident in Uttar Pradesh where a video of an old Muslim man being beaten went viral. Initially it was alleged that the man was forced to chant Jai Shree Ram, but later police investigation revealed that some of the attackers were from the same community.
Referencing the incident, Prasad said that, “What happened in UP 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 UP is perplexing & indicates its inconsistency in fighting misinformation.”
He also said questioned “why platforms like Twitter showing reluctance in following Indian laws designed to give voice to the victims of abuse and misuse?”
The minister said India’s that “the rule of law is the bedrock of Indian society,” and the country’s “commitment to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech was yet again reaffirmed at the G7 summit,” but cautioned that “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.”