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Twitter faces IT panel heat over Amit Shah's ban in November

The Times of India logo The Times of India 21-01-2021 Swati Mathur and Akhilesh Singh
© Provided by The Times of India

NEW DELHI: Twitter India officials on Thursday faced a barrage of questions from members of the parliamentary standing committee on information technology over the social media platform’s decision to temporarily block home minister Amit Shah’s Twitter account in November last year.

While Twitter had then claimed the episode was an “inadvertent error”, its officials told the Shashi Tharoor-headed House panel that the account had to be blocked on account of “copyright issues” over a picture that had been posted.

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, sources said, asked how Twitter could refer to itself as a “healthy social media platform” when its ‘Fact Checker’ failed to identify the home minister and blocked his account. Twitter had also offended India’s sovereignty by depicting an incorrect map of India, which showed Leh as a part of Chinese territory.

Panel chairman Shashi Tharoor is also learnt to have quizzed Twitter over its recent unilateral and permanent ban on former US President Donald Trump from the social media platform. The panel observed that though social media owed the responsibility to ensure people’s safety, it should explain why it indulged in censorship especially when it often called itself a mere data intermediary. Social media has often used this description to avoid being held to being a publisher which comes with certain legal liabilities.

Sources said Tharoor also questioned the role of social media in perpetuating incendiary messages, referring in particular to Facebook and Twitter’s role in fanning the violence on Capitol Hill in the US earlier this month, as well as during the Delhi riots in February last year.

Panel members, TOI has learnt, grilled Facebook over the recent changes in WhatsApp privacy rules and why the platform imposed different sets of rules for India and the rest of the world.

Members, while debating the issues of community standards versus the law, also agreed, unanimously, that the existing Indian laws governing digital media needed to be “updated” and made more robust.

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