Twitter Vs Indian Govt: "Won't Allow Double Standards", Says Ravi Shankar Prasad

Twitter's ongoing showdown with the Indian government continued after IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said "double standards" of social media companies would not be allowed in India.

Twitter's ongoing showdown with the Indian government continued on Thursday after Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said "double standards" of social media companies would not be allowed in India.

"Work in India. You have crores of followers here. We respect that. Make money but you will have to abide by Indian laws and the Constitution," Prasad said while answering questions in the Rajya Sabha.

Prasad echoed many of the talking points from the government's meeting with Twitter. He warned Twitter and other social media giants against not following Indian laws.

"Be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp, action will be taken if these platforms are misused," he said.

Comparing the January 26 breach of the Red Fort with the January 6 attack at the US Capitol, Prasad questioned Twitter's alleged double standards when it came to coordinating with governments.

"What is the matter that when there is violence in US Capitol Hill, social media platforms stand by police investigation but when Red Fort is breached, the same platforms go against the Indian government? Red Fort is the symbol of our pride. We won't allow these double standards. What is this? You are trending hashtags supporting massacre, genocide?" Prasad said.

Prasad's remarks come a day after the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) took umbrage after Twitter published a blog post before its meeting with the government.

Also Read: No Actions Against News Media, Journalists: Twitter To Indian Govt

In the meeting that followed, IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney told Twitter's vice president-global public policy, Monique Meche, and deputy general counsel and vice president-legal, Jim Baker that while the US-based company can formulate its own rules and guidelines, Indian laws have to be followed disregarding Twitter's own rules.

According to a press release, the government also raised doubts over Twitter's commitment to transparency and healthy conversation given the widespread presence of fake, unverified, anonymous and automated bot accounts.

In a press release, the MeitY expressed concerns about misuse of Twitter's platform alleging that the presence of a toolkit was proof of a "strong social media campaign" in a foreign country around the ongoing farmers protest and urged Twitter to take action in compliance with Indian laws.

On Wednesday, the microblogging website issued a statement defending its actions of restoring some of the accounts it had withheld earlier this month at the behest of the Indian government.

On February 1, Twitter restricted several accounts which were tweeting on the ongoing farmers' protest stating that they were restricted following a legal request from the Indian government. Twitter restored the accounts following widespread outrage.

In its statement, Twitter stated that they didn't believe the government's requests are consistent with Indian law.

"Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law," the statement read.

Also Read: Jail Term For Restoring Accounts: Centre Warns Twitter

Taking to their account, the MeitY said, "Upon the request of Twitter seeking a meeting with the Govt., the Secretary IT was to engage with senior management of Twitter. In this light a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusual. Govt. will share its response soon."

Also Read: Twitter Restores Caravan, Kisan Ekta Morcha And Other A/cs After Outcry

India's Legal Requests To Twitter Up By 450% in 2020

According to data published by Twitter, India is fifth in the world when it comes to issuing legal demands to the social media company. India along with Japan, Russia, South Korea and Turkey are responsible for 96% of the global legal requests.

While there were 504 requests to remove or withhold accounts and tweets between January and June 2019, the number shot up 450% to 2,772 in the corresponding period in 2020.

Similarly, between January and June 2019, India submitted 474 information requests. In the same period in 2020, the number of information requests increased 451% to 2,613.

Despite the government's requests, Twitter has had a low compliance rate. For removal requests made in the January-June 2020 period, it has complied with only 13.8% of requests while for information requests, its compliance rate is just 1%.

India furnished 35,560 legal demands to Facebook in the January-June 2020 period, a 57% rise during the same period in 2019. Content restriction requests to Facebook and Instagram declined 34% to 824 between January-June 2020 compared to 1,250 requests during the corresponding period in 2019.

In a report by the UK-based VPN advocacy organisation Top10VPN, India ranked first in the list of countries which restricted internet services in 2020. India accounted for 8,927 hours of internet blackouts from the global total of 27,165 hours. The cost of India's internet blackouts amounted to $2,779.3 million of the global cost of $4.01 billion.

Updated On: 2021-02-12T16:23:55+05:30
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