Twitter blocks IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's account, Tharoor says will seek explanation

Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses a press conference in New Delhi. File/PTI

Amid the tussle between Twitter and the Union government over the new IT rules, Union Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was denied access to his Twitter account for almost an hour over alleged violation of the US' Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Although, he was subsequently allowed to access the account, taking to India-made micro-blogging platform Koo, the minister called the action by the US-headquartered Twitter "a gross violation of the IT guidelines".

"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," he said.

Prasad, who has been at the forefront of government's drive to bring in more compliance and stricter norms for social media platforms, added: "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."

Further, the minister, who also handles the portfolio of law said that it is now apparent as to why Twitter is refusing to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines because if Twitter does comply, it would be unable to arbitrarily deny access to an individual's account which does not suit their agenda.

In a series of posts on Koo, the minister also said that 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 toe the line they draw, they will arbitrarily remove you from their platform.

"No matter what any platform does they will have to abide by the new IT Rules fully and there shall be no compromise on that," he added.

Twitter, on the other hand, has lost its status of intermediary platform in India over non-compliance to the new intermediary guidelines.

As a result of the development, the company has lost its legal shield in the country from prosecution over posts.

The micro-blogging platform recently said that it has appointed an interim Chief Compliance Officer, as per the new norms, and the details of which would be soon shared with the IT Ministry directly.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, said the panel will seek an explanation from Twitter.

“Getting a notice from a UK-based organisation, citing Twitter's role as a "service provider" under a US law, points to the challenges of Twitter India's operations in India. Ravi Shankar Prasad has pointed to possible violations of Indian regulations while conforming to foreign rules. As Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, I can state that we will be seeking an explanation from Twitter India for the locking of Ravi Shankar Prasad and my accounts and the rules and procedures they follow while operating in India,”he wrote on social media.

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