Twitter executives were put in the pillory by MPs across the parliamentary board on Friday and incessantly reminded that "Indian laws are supreme and the company has to abide by them," sources said after a meeting of the parliamentary panel on IT led by Congress's Shashi Tharoor.
Twitter India representatives were bluntly asked if the company follows the law of the land. The response -- that "we follow our own policies" -- seemed to rattle the members further.
During the meeting, Twitter was also quizzed about the criteria based on which it tags tweets as "manipulated media". Pressed for a response, Twitter said it is an intermediary, and "whatever we think is not good for society, we tag them". "We have a policy. We have equal respect for the law of land.
Twitter had recently tagged certain tweets by BJP leaders, including party spokesperson Sambit Patra, as "manipulated media" after the BJP alleged that the Congress was using a "toolkit" to defame India.
The parliamentary committee meeting was called to examine the issue of safeguarding rights of Indian citizens and preventing misuse of online platforms.
At the meeting, Twitter India was represented by its legal counsel Ayushi Kapoor and senior manager for public policy Shagufta Kamran. On non-compliance with the government's interim guidelines, Twitter said it is working on the issue. However, sources said, the two officials could not give a specific timeline for adherence to the new protocol.
Twitter was asked about its policy on content flagged as prickly or inflammatory. In this context, a BJP MP specifically raised the Ghaziabad incident of thrashing of a Muslim which was posted on social media and went viral. Officials admitted that they promote what they think are healthy tweets and demote those which were not healthy," sources said - an explanation that did not wash with the panel. An MP said the approach violated the IT Act.
The two officials of Twitter India were grilled for about 1.5 hours. "On many issues, Twitter India officials were vague and evasive," sources said.