New Delhi: In a major tussle between a social media platform and a government, the latter sought to send a strong message to Twitter that the government would strong action if social media become an instrument to spread fame news and provoke violence.
India's minister for Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad told Parliament on Thursday, "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".
The Minister also said that freedom of speech does exist, but is subject to reasonable restrictions under Article 19A of the Constitution.
Referring to platforms like Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and LinkedIn during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, Mr Prasad said tjhat they were free to do business in India, with millions as their followers, but they will have to follow the Indian constitution.
Apart from the minister's clarification in the upper house, on the action part with Twitter, IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney expressed Centre's displeasure to Twitter's management.
An official statement issued late Wednesday night said the Secretary told Monique Meche, Vice President, Global Public Policy and Jim Baker, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President Legal of Twitter that delayed compliance to lawfully passed orders are "meaningless".
"Lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity. They must be obeyed immediately. If they are executed days later, it becomes meaningless," Sawhney was quoted as saying in the statement.
The official expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about the manner in which Twitter has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order, the statement said.
At issue between the government and Twitter is the right to free speech, which Twitter upholds as its justification for not blocking the accounts of the press, journalists, politicians and social activists, and the Centre's perception about a large volume of posts and tweets in them as carrying call for violence and trouble.
With that contention, the government had asked Twitter to block over 1,300 handles for allegedly spreading misinformation and incendiary content, including accounts of journalists, activists and politicians, some of who are now facing cases charged for crime.
While Twitter partly acceded to the government's request by blocking about 500 of such handles - and that too only in India meaning they would be accessible abroad - it refuted the government line and argue that the government's demand is out of line with Indian law. That has prompted the BJP's leaders to attack the platform for the refusal to complying with Indian laws.