“If social media is misused to spread fake news, violence then action will be taken,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today told the Rajya Sabha.
Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, amid an intense face-off with microblogging platform Twitter, today told Parliament that strict action will be taken if social media is misused to spread fake news and fuel violence.
The union minister, specifically naming Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn in the Rajya Sabha, 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”. Mr Prasad was speaking during Question Hour on the misuse of social media platforms.
“We respect social media a lot, it has empowered common people. Social media has a big role in Digital India programme. However, if social media is misused to spread fake news, violence then action will be taken,” he said.
Hitting out at the “double standards” of some microblogging forums on treating the events at the US Capitol Hill and at the Red Fort on Republic Day, Mr Prasad said: “During Capitol Hill, you stand with the police action and in violence at Red Fort, you take a different stand.”
The comments from the union minister come at a time when the government and Twitter are locked in confrontation over the government’s recent order to block 1,178 accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation on the farmer protests and provocative content.
Twitter, however, had said that the orders were inconsistent with Indian law and that for some accounts, it would restrict access within India instead of an outright ban. In a blog that explained the steps taken by the social media giant Twitter noted that the values that underpin the Open Internet and free expression “are increasingly under threat around the world”.
Twitter, in its blog post, said: “We have withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under our Country Withheld Content policy within India only. These accounts continue to be available outside of India.”
“Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law,” it said.
According to the report by Times of India, top Twitter executives in India may face arrest after the Indian government made it clear that its order to block the list of accounts, allegedly spreading “inflammatory content” and using ‘farmers genocide’ hashtag, was “non-negotiable”. The centre also warned that its patience was wearing out over the refusal of the microblogging website to follow the order given under Section 69A of the IT Act.