By Reuters, New Delhi, June 26 2021 :
India’s Information & Technology minister criticized Twitter on Friday for denying access to his twitter account for almost an hour amid a dispute between the highly popular social media channel and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration over compliance with new IT rules.
Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Kooo, a domestic rival to Twitter, that the company had denied access on the grounds he had violated the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It subsequently restored access.
Prasad said Twitter had violated India’s new IT rules, which became effective in May and mandate that an intermediary or a host of user content must inform a user of the grounds for its action.
The rules also say that a user must be “provided with an adequate and reasonable opportunity to dispute the action” taken by an intermediary.
It was not immediately clear which of Prasad’s posts violated the DMCA.
Twitter confirmed that access to Prasad’s account was temporarily restricted because of a DMCA notice and that a tweet was withheld.
“Per our copyright policy, we respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorized representatives,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
Twitter has withheld more than 1 million Tweets between January and June 2020 for violation of DMCA, according to the company’s transparency report.
The dispute over the minister’s account comes as India’s federal government and Twitter are wrangling over non-compliance with the new IT rules.
In a separate case, police summoned Twitter’s India head Manish Maheshwari earlier this month for failing to stop the spread of a video that allegedly incited religious discord. On Thursday, a court gave Maheshwari relief in that case.
Prasad has previously criticised Twitter over the viral video, saying its failure to act was “perplexing”.
On Friday, Prasad reiterated that all social media firms must abide by the new IT rules, which also mandate the appointment of new compliance executives.
“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,” Prasad said, adding that users faced the threat of being “arbitrarily” removed if they did not follow the company’s line.
Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal. Editing by Frances Kerry