A Parliamentary committee reviewing India’s privacy bill on Wednesday said that microblogging website Twitter’s explanation on showing Ladakh as part of China was “inadequate” and the act amounts to a criminal offence with an imprisonment of seven years, reported PTI.
“The committee was unanimous in its opinion that Twitter’s explanation on showing Ladakh as part of China was inadequate,” said Meenakshi Lekhi, head of a parliamentary panel on Data Protection Bill.
Lekhi said that representatives of Twitter told the committee that the social media company respects the sensitivities of India. “It is not a question of sensitivities only, it is a matter of India’s sovereignty and integrity, showing Ladakh as part of China amounts to criminal offence which attracts imprisonment of seven years,” the Bharatiya Janata Party leader added. The social media company was told that an affidavit must be submitted on the matter by Twitter Inc, not by its “marketing arm” Twitter India, PTI reported, citing sources.
Lekhi said Twitter was also asked about its banning policy. “Shadow banning, banning policy there is no clarity about it,” she said. “Such actions are very subjective... Twitter is becoming a law onto themselves and under these circumstances, they are violating Article 19 of the Constitution about the freedom of expression.”
A Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the company is committed to transparency and will stay in touch with the government to share updates. “The recent geotagging issue was swiftly resolved by our teams,” the spokesperson added. “We are committed to openness, transparency around our work and will remain in regular touch with the government to share timely updates.”
Representatives of Twitter who appeared before the panel include the company’s senior manager of public policy Shagufta Kamran, legal counsel Ayushi Kapoor, Pallavi Walia from policy communications and Manvinder Bali from corporate security. Officials from the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology also deposed before the committee.
On October 18, Twitter had shown Jammu and Kashmir as a part of China during a live broadcast by journalist Nitin Gokhale. “Tweeple pl [please] put Hall of Fame Leh as your location for live broadcast and see what’s happening,” Gokhale had tweeted. “It shows location as Jammu and Kashmir, People’s Republic of China. I tested it again. Outrageous. Please flood Twitter with complaints. GoI [Government of India] should take immediate action.”
Following this, the Centre had last week written a stern letter to Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey, telling him that both Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir were “integral and inalienable” parts of India.
The letter was written by Electronics and Information Ministry Secretary Ajay Sawhney, who expressed disapproval about the misrepresentation of India’s map. Sawhney had also asked Twitter to respect the “sensitivities of Indian citizens”. He added that disrespecting India’s sovereignty and integrity was unacceptable and unlawful.
Twitter had said that it was trying to resolve the geo-tagging concerns. “We became aware of this technical issue on Sunday and understand and respect the sensitivities around it,” a spokesperson from the platform had said. “Teams have worked swiftly to investigate and resolve the concerned geotag issue.”
The controversy arose amid border tensions between India and China. Military heads of the two countries have engaged in several rounds of talks over the last three months after 20 Indian and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers were killed in violent clashes in Galwan Valley in Ladakh on June 15. However, these talks have failed to break the impasse.