Tweetstorm: Follow law of the land or face action, says Prasad

By: |
February 12, 2021 5:10 AM

“We have immense respect for social media as it has empowered the citizens but today I want to clearly state that be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp, they are free to work in India but they need to abide by the Constitution of India and laws of India,” Prasad said.

“We also respect the right to criticise…Prime Minister to government can be criticised, because it is part of the Constitution, but misuse of social media for violence and fake news will call for action,” the minister added.“We also respect the right to criticise…Prime Minister to government can be criticised, because it is part of the Constitution, but misuse of social media for violence and fake news will call for action,” the minister added.

Communications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday warned microblogging platform Twitter of strict action if it failed to comply with the government’s directives on blocking certain accounts with inflammatory content.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Prasad said social media platforms cannot indulge in differential treatment while addressing problems on Capitol Hill and the Red Fort. The government, he said, was committed to freedom of media and rights of individuals but was equally concerned about safety, security, and law and order in the country. “Please don’t spread enmity, violence and misinformation. Please follow the Constitution of India and the law of the land, otherwise we will be very strict,” Prasad said while replying to a question in the Upper House.

On Wednesday, the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) told the senior management of Twitter that while India values and welcomes freedom of speech and expression that are enunciated in its Constitution, the restrictions on it were reasonable. The microblogging site is free to have its own policy on content regulation but it has to follow the laws of the land duly passed by Parliament.

“Microblogging companies stand by police when they take action after Capitol Hill of Washington is ransacked. But when there is an attack on Red Fort, which is a sign of our dignity, they oppose action,” Prasad said. “This double standard would not work here.” He qualified his statement by saying the government respects their good work and the foreign investment they bring into the country.

“We have immense respect for social media as it has empowered the citizens but today I want to clearly state that be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp, they are free to work in India but they need to abide by the Constitution of India and laws of India,” Prasad said.

“We also respect the right to criticise…Prime Minister to government can be criticised, because it is part of the Constitution, but misuse of social media for violence and fake news will call for action,” the minister added.

So far Twitter has refused to fully follow the government’s directions. In a blog post on Wednesday, it said it has partly acted on the directive by suspending 500 accounts flagged by MeitY and blocked access to several others within India. However, it declined to block handles of civil society activists, politicians and media, saying “it would violate their fundamental right to free expression” guaranteed under the country’s law.

Twitter also said it will continue to support the right of free expression of its users and that it is actively exploring options under Indian law both for Twitter and the accounts that have been impacted.

The government has directed Twitter to block over 1,100 accounts under the provisions of Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. If it fails to do so, Twitter stands to lose the immunity which intermediaries enjoy and faces penal action for non-compliance. Punishment for non-compliance in such cases is imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and a possible fine. The government has also made it clear that Twitter is an intermediary and so, bound by the laws which govern such platforms and therefore cannot adjudicate on its own.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE, NSE, US Market and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, Check out latest IPO News, Best Performing IPOs, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.

Next Stories
1Bill Gates reveals why he prefers Android over iPhone on Clubhouse
2WhatsApp can tell on you without snooping
3Home Smart Home: Variety of products to offer