Sun. Jun 13th, 2021

It condemns the ‘unfortunate’ statement issued by Twitter as ‘totally baseless, false and an attempt to defame India to hide their own follies’

Twitter’s statement expressing concern over “intimidation tactics” and “potential threat to Freedom of Expression” in India is an attempt to dictate its terms to the world’s largest democracy, the Union government said on Thursday.

In a strongly worded statement, the government said it condemned the unfortunate statement issued by Twitter as “totally baseless, false and an attempt to defame India to hide their own follies”.

“The Government strongly controverts the claims made by Twitter today in its press release. India has a glorious tradition of free speech and democratic practices dating back centuries. Protecting free speech in India is not the prerogative of only a private, for-profit, foreign entity like Twitter, but it is the commitment of the world’s largest democracy and its robust institutions,” an official statement said.

On Twitter’s concern with regard to the use of “intimidation tactics” by the Delhi Police, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) said the Delhi Police had issued a detailed press release, pertaining to an ongoing investigation, which “answer the completely baseless allegations” raised by Twitter.

It further stated that through its actions and deliberate defiance, Twitter sought to undermine India’s legal system. “Twitter needs to stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land. Law making and policy formulations is the sole prerogative of the sovereign and Twitter is just a social media platform and it has no locus in dictating what should India’s legal policy framework should be,” the MeitY said.

It pointed out that Twitter representatives in India routinely claimed that they have no authority and that they and the people of India need to escalate everything to the Twitter headquarter in the U.S. “The purported commitment of Twitter, to its Indian user base, thus not only sounds hollow but completely self-serving.”

Large user base in India

Twitter had a large user base in India and earned significant revenues from operations here. However, it was reluctant to appoint an India based grievance redressal officer and mechanism, chief compliance officer and nodal officer, to whom its own users could complain when they are subjected to offensive tweets, it said.

The new rules, the government said, empowered the ordinary users who became victims of defamation, morphed images, sexual abuse and the whole range of other abusive content in blatant violation of law, to seek redress. It reiterated that these rules were finalised after widest possible consultations, including with representatives of social media platforms.

The Government of India respected the right of people to ask questions and also criticise on these social media platforms, including on Twitter. It equally respected the right of privacy, the MeitY said. It, however, stated that the only instance of scuttling free speech on Twitter was Twitter itself and its opaque policies, as a result of which people’s accounts were suspended and tweets deleted arbitrarily without recourse.

Twitter’s lack of responsibility had led to rampant proliferation of fake and harmful content against India and Indians, the government said. Promoting vaccine hesitancy had been rampantly done through the use of Twitter platform and yet Twitter had taken no action. “Is this commitment to the people of India? Discriminatory behavior has been practiced against Indians and people of Indian origin because of malicious tagging of B.1.617 mutant as ‘Indian variant’ name despite strict WHO guidelines against it. Again, Twitter has taken no action against such fake narratives and Tweets while grandiosely claiming to serve the people of India,” the government stated.

It also gave other examples to show that “commitment of Twitter” to users in India had been “invisible” in recent times. These include Twitter showing the geo-location of certain locations in the Union Territory of Ladakh as part of People’s Republic of China at a time when India and China were engaged in peaceful resolution of border related issues and took several days to rectify this blatant disrespect to India’s sensitivity and territorial integrity.

“Twitter Inc., a USA based private company, in its communique says that it seeks “constructive dialogue”, “collaborative approach” from the government of a sovereign democratic republic to “safeguard interests of the public”. It was time that Twitter disabused itself of this grandiosity and complied with the laws of India,” the government said, adding that it emphatically wanted to assure the representatives of social media companies were and would always remain safe in India and there was no threat to their personal safety and security.

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