Amid Centre’s intense face-off with Twitter, Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said in Parliament that strict action will be taken if social media platforms are used to spread fake news or inciting violence.
The Union Minister, in Rajya Sabha, specifically naming Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WhatsApp said, “Be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp, action will be taken if these platforms are misused.”
The IT minister further said, “You have millions of followers in India, you are free to do business and make money, but you will have to follow the Indian constitution.”
“We respect social media a lot, it has empowered common people. Social media has a big role in the Digital India programme. However, if social media are misused to spread fake news and violence, then action will be taken on the misuse of social media,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad during Question Hour.
We have immense respect for social media as it has empowered the citizens but today I want to clearly state that be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp they are free to work in India but they need to abide by the Constitution of India and laws of India. pic.twitter.com/DTwLf0Xc6S
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) February 11, 2021
The statement comes at a time when the government on Wednesday expressed its displeasure with the micro-blogging company on the delayed compliance on its order to remove ‘provocative’ tweets amid the ongoing farmers’ protests. Following the Republic Day violence in which framers tractor rally had flouted the set route and went to Red Fort, the government had asked Twitter to block over 1,300 handles in all for allegedly spreading misinformation, which included accounts of journalists, activists, and politicians.
On the issues with Twitter, Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “We have flagged certain issues to Twitter and social media has to take into consideration of the Indian Laws if they want to do business in the country.”
The minister compared the action taken by Twitter during the Capitol Hill violence and Red Fort violence. He said, “Different parameters can’t be allowed for different countries. It can’t be different for the Capitol Hill incident and some other parameters for the Red Fort incident.”
Twitter has ‘partly’ complied with the notice and imposed restricts on some accounts only within India. Twitter on Wednesday in its blog post listed the measures taken by them but said these demands were inconsistent with Indian law.
An official statement issued by the ministry on late Wednesday night said that delayed compliance to lawfully passed orders is “meaningless”.
The statement said, “Lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity. They must be obeyed immediately. If they are executed days later, it becomes meaningless.”