IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (File image)
Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, said Twitter denied access to his microblogging account on June 25 for nearly an hour.
The access was briefly revoked on ground of the alleged violation of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of the USA, Prasad said. The action comes amid the row between the Centre and Twitter over India's new social media rules.
"Something highly peculiar happened today. Twitter denied access to my account for almost an hour on the alleged ground that there was a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the USA and subsequently they allowed me to access the account," Prasad said, as he shared screenshots of Twitter keeping his account in temporary suspension.
The IT Minister said that the manner in which his account was temporarily blocked is in violation of the new social media rules - which Twitter is yet to completely comply with.
"Twitter’s actions were in gross violation of Rule 4(8) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 where they failed to provide me any prior notice before denying me access to my own account," Prasad said.
"It is apparent that my statements calling out the high handedness and arbitrary actions of Twitter, particularly sharing the clips of my interviews to TV channels and its powerful impact, have clearly ruffled its feathers," he added.
Prasad further noted that if Twitter complies with the new social media intermediary rules, it would no longer be allowed to arbitrarily deny access to an individual’s account.
"Twitter’s actions indicate that they are not the harbinger of free speech that they claim to be but are only interested in running their own agenda, with the threat that if you do not tow the line they draw," he added.
Shortly after Prasad's critical remarks, Twitter issued a statement confirming that it had briefly blocked the account of the Union Minister due to a DMCA notice.
"We can confirm that the Honourable Minister’s account access was temporarily restricted due to a DMCA notice only and the referenced Tweet has been withheld. Per our copyright policy, we respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorized representatives," the statement said.
Aprameya Radhakrishna, CEO and co founder at Koo - an Indian microblogging platform that is budding as a rival of Twitter - condemned the action taken against Prasad's account without him.
"Giving a user complete context of any claimed violation and an intimation of the exact violation is important. The user should also be able to contest or accept the claimed violation. A direct action of suspension without the above makes it seem like a social media platform is taking the final judgement call and is not being an intermediary," he said.
Twitter is the only major social media platform in India which is yet to comply with the government's new rules. Marking its dissent on May 27, the company said it would strive to comply with the new guidelines but would remain guided by its principle of protecting freedom of expression.
"To keep our service available, we will strive to comply with applicable law in India. But, just as we do around the world, we will continue to be strictly guided by principles of transparency, a commitment to empowering every voice on the service, and protecting freedom of expression and privacy under the rule of law," a Twitter spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The new rules mandate the social media companies to appoint a chief compliance officer and have a nodal contact person who can be in touch with law enforcement agencies 24/7. The social media firms should not host or store, and must take down content prohibited in the context of India’s sovereignty, integrity, defamation and incitement to offence.
The rules have also drawn concern as the platforms, on direction of the government, would have to trace the “first originator” of a piece of content in case of a law-and-order situation. This currently stands in the face of user end-to-end encryption that many apps promise.