Twitter must explain to House Panel: Shashi Tharoor on Ravi Shankar Prasad’s account getting blocked

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June 25, 2021 8:38 PM

Getting a notice from a UK-based organisation, citing Twitter's role as a service provider under a US law, points to the challenges of Twitter India's operations in India, Tharoor said.

Twitter, twitter news, Twitter latest, twitter updates, ravi Shankar Prasad; Shashi TharoorThe temporary locking of the IT Minister's Twitter account comes at a time when the US-based digital giant has been engaged in a tussle with the Indian government over the new social media rules.

After Twitter briefly blocked IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad from accessing his account for alleged copyrights violation, chairman of the parliamentary panel on information technology Shashi Tharoor on Friday said the same thing happened with him and the standing committee will be seeking an explanation from the social media firm over the temporary locking of their accounts and the rules it follows while operating in India.

Confronting Twitter, Prasad said it was apparent that his statements calling out the high handedness and arbitrary actions of the micro-blogging platform, particularly sharing clips of interviews to TV channels and the powerful impact had “clearly ruffled its feathers”. “Friends! Something highly peculiar happened today. Twitter denied access to my account for almost an hour on the alleged ground that there was a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the USA and subsequently they allowed me to access the account,” Prasad said in a tweet.

Tagging Prasad’s tweet, Tharoor said, “Raviji, the same thing just happened to me. Clearly DMCA is getting hyperactive.” He said one of his tweets has been deleted by Twitter because its video included the copyrighted BoneyM song”Rasputin”.

After a process, the account was unlocked, the Congress leader said. Indians creatively make videos using short snippets of foreign music and most people would consider that “fair use”, Tharoor argued in a series of tweets. Instead of letting the clip enhance the popularity of their song, the copyright holders have issued a notice, the Lok Sabha MP said, adding that though he had just retweeted it, he was not about to contest their act.

In this case the complainant was the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry which is zealously defending the rights of Sony Music to “Rasputin”, he said. Ironically, Tharoor said, at their last conference in India, he was a keynote speaker. “So I won’t blame @Twitter for this action or attribute the motives to them that @rsprasad does, though it wasn’t pleasant finding my account locked. Clearly they had no choice but to honour a DMCA takedown notice, however stupid & pointless the request was,” he said in another tweet.

But getting a notice from a UK-based organisation, citing Twitter’s role as a service provider under a US law, points to the challenges of Twitter India’s operations in India, Tharoor said. The minister has pointed to possible violations of Indian regulations while conforming to foreign rules, he said. “As Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, I can state that we will be seeking an explanation from @TwitterIndia for the locking of @rsprasad’s & my accounts & the rules & procedures they follow while operating in India,” Tharoor said.

A couple of hours after his series of tweets, Tharoor tweeted that Twitter had locked him out again because to explain the problem, the first tweet in his thread of tweets included the offending copyrighted video. “Locking is a foolish response to a DCMA notice; disabling the video (which they’ve now done) should be enough. @Twitter has a lot to learn,” he said.

Weighing into the issue, Rajya Sabha MP and Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said this has happened to her verified Facebook page as well with respect to television debates. “I had also raised this copyright issue in the department related Committee meeting. Unfortunately, it only pinches when it hits home. No conspiracy sir, it is something that has gone unaddressed & is less understood,” Chaturvedi said, tagging Prasad’s tweet. “I had in a committee meeting on copyright and Intellectual Property Rights asked this specific question: how can a TV channel flag a segment as copyright violation for a debate in which I was a part & is shared on my page? The page was allowed access only when post was taken down,” she tweeted.

However, there was no answer then and not even taken up as a larger issue that needs clarity, she said in her series of tweets on the issue. “Today it happened to the IT Minister and he blames the platform! The issue is not you, your position or the platform, it is the lack of clarity. But then we live in the times of narrative setting,” Chaturvedi said.

The temporary locking of the IT Minister’s Twitter account comes at a time when the US-based digital giant has been engaged in a tussle with the Indian government over the new social media rules. The government has slammed Twitter for deliberate defiance and failure to comply with the country’s new IT rules, which has led to the microblogging platform losing its legal shield as an intermediary in India and becoming liable for users posting any unlawful content.

Lashing out at Twitter, Prasad — in a series of posts on rival social media platform Koo — said it was apparent that his statements calling out the “high handedness and arbitrary actions” of Twitter had ruffled feathers. He also tweeted on the issue.

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