Bharatiya Janata Party MP Tejasvi Surya and the party’s Information Technology Cell head Amit Malviya on Saturday criticised social media company Twitter Inc’s move to permanently suspend United States President Donald Trump’s account due to the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the US Capitol.
Surya, who has made multiple incendiary and divisive public speeches in the past, said Twitter’s suspension of Trump’s account must be a “wake-up call for democracies” due to the threat posed by “unregulated” big tech companies. “If they can do this to POTUS, they can do this to anyone,” the Bengaluru South MP tweeted, tagging the Union Ministry of Electronics and IT. “Sooner India reviews intermediaries regulations, better for our democracy.”
In another tweet, while responding to Congress leader Srivatsa, he said freedom of expression is sacrosanct. “Sorry dude, I don’t want Twitter to ban anyone – Congressi or BJP or anyone,” he added. “FoE is sacrosanct. It cannot be curtailed whimsically by pvt big tech companies without accountability. But one certainly can’t expect such statesmanship from a party that imposed Emergency.”
BJP’s social media head Amit Malviya said Twitter’s action to bar a sitting US president “sets a dangerous precedent”. Last month, the social media company had labelled a tweet by Malviya on farmers’ protest as “manipulated media”. This was the first instance of Twitter calling out alleged fake news in India.
“It has less to do with his views and more to do with intolerance for a differing point,” Malviya tweeted. “Ironically, those who claim to champion free speech are celebrating. Big tech firms are now the new oligarchs.”
On Friday, Twitter said in a blog post that the outgoing US president’s personal @realDonaldTrump account, which had more than 88 million followers, would be shut down immediately. The company said two tweets posted by him on Friday – one calling his supporters “American patriots” and another saying he would not attend Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration on January 20 – were in violation of its policy against the glorification of violence.
The tweets “could inspire others to replicate violent acts and determined that they were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021,” the blog post said.
Twitter had first temporarily blocked Trump’s account for 12 hours on Wednesday following the siege of Capitol Hill, and warned him that additional violations via his account would result in a permanent suspension.
While critics of the president said that the move was long overdue, others expressed outrage. The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, decried the ban, saying dictators who had threatened genocide continued to have their accounts, without giving any names. He called Twitter’s move against his father “absolute insanity” and said the tech companies were overreaching. “We are living Orwell’s 1984,” he tweeted.