If American companies do business here, they ought to comply to Indian laws, says Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad over Twitter row

Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while speaking to ANI said Twitter was given three month period as goodwill gesture before removal of it's intermediary status. Prasad on Wednesday had said the microblogging platform had “deliberately chosen” not to comply with new intermediary guidelines despite being given “multiple opportunities”.

"I am not the one who declared it (removal of Twitter's intermediary status), the law has. If others followed, why couldn't they?", Prasad questioned. "We asked for 3 officers to be appointed. 3 months' period exhausted on May 26.. gave them the last opportunity as goodwill gesture", he added.

Prasad said, "We gave Twitter 3 months' time. Others have followed, they haven't". "Rule 7 of (IT) guidelines says if you don't comply then under Sec 79 you may lose intermediary status & may become liable to other laws including penal laws of the country", the minister justified Twitter losing legal protection in India.

He further slammed the microblogging site saying that when an Indian companies or pharma companies do business in the States, they follow American laws. He said, we welcome criticism but the company ought to follow India's constitution and rules. "If you have to do business here, you're welcome to criticize PM, all of us.. but you've to obey India's constitution & rules", he was quoted saying.

"When some people do their politics via Twitter, I've no problem.. now they're doing politics of Twitter, again I've no problem. It isn't an issue between Twitter & GoI or BJP. It is an issue between Twitter & its users who must be given forum in case of misuse/abuse", he said.

Prasad said that he is happy that there are 100-crore social media users in India and we have no problem with criticism. "We have never stopped anyone from speaking, criticising... there are people on Twitter who criticize the Prime Minister, the government and BJP...we never stopped them," he said.

"But when these profit companies start lecturing us on democracy, then I would like to point one thing and that is India is a democracy as elections are fair. Look at us, We won Assam but lost Bengal", he added.

The IT minister said, "Judiciary asks us questions, the media questions our senior minister, and that's what freedom of speech is", adding that if under these garb the company does not comply with rules then it's misplaced argument.

Prasad further questioned as to why Twitter did not flag Ghaziabad tweets as a manipulative tweet. "As Law & IT minister, I've no comments to offer. It is for Police to investigate. But I'd like to flag that if Twitter has a norm of declaring particular tweet as manipulative/unmanipulated, why was it not applied in the Ghaziabad case", the Minister questioned.

The new IT rules for social media companies that came into effect last month mandate large platforms like Facebook and Twitter to undertake greater due diligence and make these digital platforms more accountable and responsible for the content hosted by them. Under the rules, significant social media intermediaries -- those with over 50 lakh users -- are required to appoint a grievance officer, a nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. These personnel have to be residents in India.

The new social media guidelines came into effect from May 26, 2021 but Twitter did not comply with the rules.

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