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Centre raises concern over Twitter's commitment to transparency, says it allows fake, unverified info

News Agencies | Updated on: 11 February 2021, 9:57 IST

The Central government has conveyed to Twitter officials that the manner in which the social media giant officially allows fake, unverified, and automated bot accounts to be operated on its platform, raises doubts about its commitment to transparency and healthy conversation on the platform.

This meeting took place in view of the order issued by the Centre directing Twitter to remove tweets and accounts using hashtag related to "farmer genocide" and accounts supported by Khalistan sympathisers and backed by Pakistan and blog post issued by Twitter.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in a press release revealed that the Ministry's Secretary, in a virtual interaction with Twitter officials, expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about the manner in which it has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order.

He reminded Twitter that in India, its Constitution and laws are supreme. It is expected that responsible entities not only reaffirm but remain committed to compliance to the law of land, he said.

This comes after Twitter on Wednesday took multiple enforcement actions for violations of its rules, in response to the ''legal requests'' from the Indian government.

"Separate to our enforcement under the Twitter Rules, over the course of the last 10 days, Twitter has been served with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act," the social media giant said in a statement.

According to a release issued by MeitY, Secretary told the Twitter representatives that in India, the government value freedom and value criticism because it is part of our democracy.

"India has a robust mechanism for protection of freedom of speech and expression that is very elaborately explained as Fundamental Rights under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution of India. But freedom of expression is not absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions as mentioned in Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India. Various judgments of the Supreme Court have also upheld this from time to time," the release said.

Secretary to MeitY further highlighted that Twitter, must also respect the Indian laws and democratic institutions, adding that it is free to formulate its own rules and guidelines, but Indian laws which are enacted by its Parliament must be followed irrespective of its own rules and guidelines.

Secretary took up the issue of using a hashtag on "farmer genocide" with Twitter executives and expressed strong displeasure on the way Twitter acted after an emergency order was issued to remove this hashtag and content related to that.

"Spreading misinformation using an incendiary and baseless hashtag referring to 'farmer genocide' at a time when such irresponsible content can provoke and inflame the situation is neither journalistic freedom nor freedom of expression as envisaged under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Despite the attention of Twitter being drawn to such content by the Government through a lawful process, the platform allowed the content with this hashtag to continue, which was extremely unfortunate," the MeitY release said.

Secretary reminded Twitter about the action taken by Twitter during the Capitol Hill episode in the USA and compared that with the disturbance in Red Fort in India and its aftermath. He expressed dissatisfaction over Twitter's differential treatment in the two incidents.

"A deep sense of disappointment at seeing Twitter side not with 'freedom of expression' but rather with those who seek to abuse such freedom and provoke disturbance to public order, was conveyed to the Twitter representative," the release added.

Secretary also mentioned that revelations around certain "Toolkit" has made it evident that a strong social media campaign was planned in a foreign country around farmers protest. Misuse of Twitter's platform for execution of such campaigns designed to create disharmony and unrest in India is unacceptable and Twitter must take strong action against such well-coordinated campaigns against India, through compliance with the applicable law of the land.


Also Read: GOI to Twitter: Responsible entities remain committed to compliance to law of land

First published: 11 February 2021, 9:57 IST