Speaking at the India Global Forum, the minister said Twitter last week blocked his account for an hour on a complaint made four years ago under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the US.
“If you are going to invoke the … digital copyright act of America, you have to also be cognisant of the copyright rules of India. That is the point.
“You cannot say my whole stand will be regulated by an ex-parte assessment of the US law. For a happy blending of the role of big tech and democracy, a solution has to be found,” Prasad said.
He reiterated that social media companies are free to do business in India but they have to be accountable to the Indian Constitution and laws.
Prasad further said the issue of social media in India is around abuse of the rights of victims on those platforms and the companies’ accountability.
“If democracy has to survive misinformation, fake news, colluded material … all these are challenges. I am not in favour of censoring but democracies have to find a common ground as far as these issues are concerned so that these big tech companies do their business, earn good money, good profit but become accountable. This can only happen if you follow law of the land,” Prasad said.
Govt vs Twitter
The government and Twitter have been at loggerheads for the last few months over various issues, including statements made by company officials about the freedom of speech in India.
The biggest flashpoint emerged when Twitter failed to fully comply with the new digital rules that came into force last month.
Twitter had earlier accused the government of “dangerous overreach” and claimed it was forced to “withhold” portions of “legitimate free speech”. The government had reacted strongly to these allegations, charging the company with deliberately subverting the law of the land and trying to “dictate” its terms.
New Digital Rules
The new rules for social media companies 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.
The rules also require significant social media intermediaries — providing services primarily in the nature of messaging — to enable identification of the “first originator” of the information that undermines the sovereignty of India, the security of the state, or public order.
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.
Further, social media companies will have to take down flagged content within 36 hours, and remove within 24 hours content that is flagged for issues such as nudity and pornography.
Twitter’s interim resident grievance officer for India, who was hired in June under the new rules, resigned within a month of his appointment.
(With inputs from PTI)