The Parliamentary panel on Information Technology, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Anurag Thakur, on Monday directed social media website Twitter to ensure that foreign players do not influence the upcoming Indian elections, ANI reported. Lok Sabha elections are expected to be held this summer.
In a meeting that lasted over three hours, the committee also asked Twitter to engage more with officials of the Election Commission of India, according to The Indian Express. Thakur said that senior officials of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have been asked to appear before the panel on March 6.
While Twitter officials replied to most questions, they have been told to submit written responses to some questions within 10 days, PTI reported.
The panel, which is concerned that Twitter may be used to interfere in the Lok Sabha elections, had invited its Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey to appear before it, but he had refused. Twitter’s head of public policy, Colin Crowell, instead met the panel on Monday.
The parliamentary panel had summoned Dorsey to appear before it on February 11. The panel had reportedly sought Dorsey’s opinion on complaints about perceived bias against right-wing handles on the platform.
However, after Twitter turned down the summons, the committee refused to interrogate a “junior officer” in Dorsey’s place, and threatened action against the company. Later, it issued Dorsey a summons for February 25.
But the social media firm, in an email on February 22, said Crowell would attend the meeting instead of Dorsey. “We thank the parliamentary committee for its invitation to hear Twitter’s views on ‘Safeguarding citizen rights on social/online news media platforms’,” the Twitter spokesperson said in a statement emailed to PTI. “These are issues for all internet services globally.”
The February 11 summons were issued days after the Youth for Social Media Democracy, a right-wing outfit, held protests, accusing the social media firm of suspending or shadow-banning accounts that appear sympathetic to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the government.
On January 10, Twitter had announced that it will provide an advertising dashboard that will show expenditures by political parties in India on the platform during the course of the election.
On Thursday, Twitter said it has formed an internal group to lead “electoral integrity work” in India. The group will identify potential threats from malicious actors on the social media website.