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Twitter under fire in India after house panel summons CEO Jack Dorsey to discuss online rights

Looks like the house panel is ready to grill Twitter and send a strong message before general elections.

  • Published: February 11, 2019 11:03 AM IST
Jack Dorsey Twitter CEO

Last year, US President Donald Trump slammed Twitter for “shadow banning” Republicans, to which, the micro-blogging platform said happened due to a ‘technical glitch.’ Now, the company is facing a similar controversy in India where some Twitter users lost followers, and accusations are that the company is shadow-banning handles voicing right-wing views. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has summoned Twitter CEO or his second in-command today to ‘examine’ the issue of citizen rights on “social or online news media platforms.”

In a statement Twitter said that it could not get Dorsey to India on time, due to which the parliamentary standing committee on information technology is exploring ways to express its frustration.

“Given the short notice of the hearing, we informed the committee that it would not be possible for senior officials from Twitter to travel from the United States to appear on Monday. Our CEO, Jack Dorsey, and other senior Twitter executives visited India in recent weeks because it is an important market for Twitter and we value the growing interest in Twitter in India,” Twitter said in a statement (via ET).

Anurag Thakur, BJP lawmaker who heads the panel said that members are not keen on Twitter seeking interaction in March-April. It is a crucial time when nobody will be available due to Lok Sabha elections. “The committee decided to call the head of Twitter because it felt it should interact with the person who could be held responsible for actions of the company rather than people who do not have powers for any policy making or enforcement, ” Thakur told ET.

The interaction was to be held on February 7, but was later pushed to February 11 to give more time to Twitter. “But even 10 days’ time seems to be short notice for them (Twitter). This only shows that they are shying away from their responsibility and perhaps have a lot to hide. They must be mindful of the fact that the committee, if push comes to shove, can go to any lengths to ensure accountability. This is perhaps happening for the first time that someone does not have the time for an established institution of Parliament. They appear to be running away from their responsibility,” a community member said.

A committee member said that the letter clearly indicated that Twitter India’s representatives do not have the authority to enforce or frame a policy, and so they wanted to interact with the company’s CEO or his deputy. The agenda of discussion was to debate on the rising false propaganda on Twitter, which not only influences mainstream media, but also influences the opinions of people.

When asked about allegations, the committee member said, “If a fake handle of the Indian Army is being made (on Twitter) and lies are being spread, somebody has to be held accountable. Twitter cannot be allowed to be misused on the pretext that it is a platform to discuss ideas.”

Twitter responded by saying that it respects the committee’s focus on user rights and safety, and have indicated their interest to participate in such “board hearing process.”

  • Published Date: February 11, 2019 11:03 AM IST