Union Minister for Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said that Twitter failed to comply with the guidelines despite being given multiple opportunities. In a series of posts shared on Koo, Prasad said that Twitter portrays itself as the flag bearer of free speech, but "chooses the path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines".
Prasad's made the comments in the backdrop of reports claiming that Twitter has lost legal indemnity in India as it didn't comply with the new IT rules. The social media giant will now have to face penal actions just like other publishers.
"There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision. However, 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," Prasad said.
"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," the Union Minister added.
"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," he said.
The Union Minister also alleged that Twitter has failed to address the grievances of users by refusing to setting 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 alleged.
Referring to the Ghaziabad incident wherein a Muslim man claimed that he was assaulted by a mob, his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant Jai Shri Ram, Prasad said: "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."
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, he said. "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," Prasad added.
The new IT rules for social media companies that came into effect last month mandate large platforms like Facebook and Twitter to undertake greater due diligence and make these digital platforms more accountable and responsible for the content hosted by them. Under the rules, significant social media intermediaries -- those with over 50 lakh users -- are required to appoint a grievance officer, a nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. These personnel have to be residents in India.
Further, social media companies will have to take down flagged content within 36 hours, and remove within 24 hours content that is flagged for issues such as nudity and pornography. The new social media guidelines came into effect from May 26, 2021 but Twitter did not comply with the rules.