Union Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday said social media giant Twitter denied him access to his account for almost an hour, citing a copyright complaint. Moments later, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said the micro-blogging platform had deleted one of his posts.
In a series of tweets, Prasad said the company’s action were in “gross violation” of Rule 4(8) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. He said Twitter had failed to notify him before temporarily denying him access to his account.
Prasad claimed the company was not complying with the new IT rules as it cannot then “arbitrarily deny access to an individual’s account which does not suit their agenda”.
“It is apparent that my statements calling out the high handedness and arbitrary actions of Twitter, particularly sharing the clips of my interviews to television channels and its powerful impact, have clearly ruffled its feathers,” Prasad alleged.
He also said that no television channel or anchor had made any complaints about copyright infringements in the past several years with regard to the news clips of the minister’s interviews.
The minister also warned that all platforms will have to adhere to the IT rules completely. “There shall be no compromise on that,” he wrote.
After Prasad’s tweet, Tharoor said he too faced a similar situation twice. “Raviji, the same thing just happened to me,” the Congress MP tweeted. “Clearly DMCA is getting hyperactive. This tweet has been deleted by Twitter because its video includes the copyrighted BoneyM song Rasputin.” He added that his account was unlocked after due process.
Tharoor, who is the head of the Parliamentary panel on information technology, said they will be seeking an explanation from Twitter. “As chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, I can state that we’ll be seeking an explanation from Twitter India for locking of RS Prasad’s and my accounts and rules and procedures they follow while operating in India,” Tharoor tweeted.
In the evening, Tharoor said that his account was locked out again because of the copyrighted music in the first tweet of the thread. “Locking is a foolish response to a DCMA notice; disabling the video (which they’ve now done) should be enough,” he tweeted. “Twitter has a lot to learn.”
Meanwhile, Congress leader Jaiveer Shergill took a dig at the Union law minister, comparing the incident to the “plight of farmers” because of the farm laws. “Law Minister perturbed over being denied access to his Twitter account for 1 hour (per media reports) - Imagine the plight of farmers who have been denied access to their MSP [minimum support price] account for lifetime by Law Ministry via 3 black farm laws!!”
The Uttar Pradesh Police have also included Twitter in a first information report for not removing posts about the assault of an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad district on June 5. The company has been booked for “intent to a riot, promoting enmity and criminal conspiracy”.
The new information technology rules – which were announced in February and became effective in May – are framed to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content, virtually bringing them, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision.
Among other things, the regulations require these platforms to appoint chief compliance officers, in order to make sure the rules are followed, nodal officers, to coordinate with law enforcement agencies, and grievance officers. All of them should be based in India. It also requires social media platforms with over 50 lakh users to help in identifying the “originator” of messages upon the government’s request.
On June 5, Twitter had briefly removed the blue check mark from the personal handle of India’s Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu. This blue tick, displayed on a user’s profile, is viewed as an indicator of legitimacy.