'Work here, but...: RS Prasad talks tough amid Twitter-government row
Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday told the tech companies that they are free to work in India only if they follow the Indian Constitution. His tough statements came amid an intense face-off between the Indian government and Twitter. Yesterday, the micro-blogging website released a lengthy post, wherein it said it advocates the "right of free expression."
Social media can't be used for spreading fake news: Prasad
The Minister said that the government has immense respect for social media as it played a role in the Digital India initiative and empowered common people. However, he added, that if these platforms are used for spreading misinformation and fanning violence, then strict action will be taken. He also questioned the double standards of the platforms, citing the example of the United States' riots.
He asked why social media platforms went 'against' Indian government
"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," he went on.
Companies were asked to follow Indian laws
Prasad also clarified that Centre isn't against social media companies working and flourishing here. "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," he underlined. When asked whether these platforms are used to interfere with Indian polls, Prasad said the government is not averse to taking action.
EC will take action in case of election tampering
"We respect the election process of India. If social media platforms are misused to tamper with the election process, our Election Commission and the government will take stern action," the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said.
Freedom is important but not at cost of sovereignty: Prasad
Citing examples of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and himself, Prasad declared that the current regime has leaders who fought for the freedom of media, individuals, and judiciary. "Our commitment to freedom of media is complete and total. But we are equally concerned about the security and sovereignty of India," he said.
Yesterday, MeitY and Twitter officials had a meeting
Interestingly, in his speech, Prasad named tech giants Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn. His fiery address came after his ministry — Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) — released a long statement on Wednesday. After a two-hour-long virtual meeting with Twitter, MeitY said the platform hadn't sided with "freedom of expression" but with those who abused such rights and threatened the public order.
The controversial hashtag was spoken about in meeting
The meeting had IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney; Twitter's Vice-President, Global Public Policy, Monique Meche; and Twitter's Deputy General Counsel and Vice-President (legal) Jim Baker, in attendance. The hashtag #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide also figured in the meeting. Sawhney expressed disappointment at Twitter's move of unblocking URLs, despite the government asking it not to do so, the Ministry revealed. Twitter's decision was dubbed "unfortunate."
Twitter was pulled up for allowing fake accounts to function
"The government conveyed to the Twitter leadership that the manner in which Twitter officially allows fake, unverified, anonymous, and automated bot accounts to be operated on its platform, raises doubts about its commitment to transparency and healthy conversation on this platform, (sic)" added the statement.
Apparently, Twitter told MeitY it would follow Indian laws
The note indicated that India is not closing the doors on Twitter and welcomes its business. But the platform has to respect Indian laws. "Twitter leadership affirmed their commitment toward following Indian laws and rules. They expressed their continuing commitment to building their services in India. They have also requested for better engagement between Government of India and Twitter's global team, (sic)" MeitY added.