BJP leader Tejasvi Surya on Saturday urged the government to review and repeal the laws governing big social media firms in India, after Twitter permanently banned US President Donald Trump’s account citing ‘risk of incitement of violence’.
He said the suspension of Trump’s Twitter account was a “wake-up call for democracies” on the threat posed by “unregulated” big-tech companies.
“Intermediaries, as per their definition, can’t interfere in content on Social Media platforms. But Rules thereunder say otherwise. This anomaly must be addressed immediately. If they can do this to POTUS, they can do this to anyone. Sooner India reviews intermediaries regulations, better for our democracy,” Surya said on Twitter.
He urged the government to repeal the ‘IT Intermediaries Guidelines Rules’ during zero hour in the parliament. “They (the guidelines) are problematic because they empower private foreign enterprises performing essentially a public function to act as censors as free speech without government oversight, thus effectively and severely impacting safeguards of fundamental rights to free speech(sic),” Surya said.
The unprecedented move by Twitter came two days after Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, bringing disgrace to the country and its democratic institutions, after a rally in which he made ‘incendiary’ statements. Five people, including a woman and a police officer, have died.
Trump then switched to his official @POTUS account to accuse Twitter of conspiring with his political enemies “to silence me”. “Twitter has gone further and further in banning free speech, and tonight, Twitter employees have coordinated with the Democrats and the Radical Left in removing my account from their platform, to silence me — and YOU, the 75,000,000 great patriots who voted for me,” he said in a series of tweets from the @POTUS account. The post was swiftly deleted by Twitter.
Hyderabad police in November had issued a warning against speeches that could incite ‘communal violence’ after Surya’s comments at a rally ahead of the city municipal polls. “Owaisi is Jinnah’s new avatar. We must defeat him,” he had said, equating the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen chief with Pakistan’s founder.
BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya also commented on Trump’s Twitter account ban, saying “deplatforming Donald Trump, a sitting US president, sets a dangerous precedent. It has less to do with his views and more to do with intolerance for a differing point. Ironically, those who claim to champion free speech are celebrating. Big tech firms are now the new oligarchs.”
A tweet by Malviya was in November flagged by Twitter as ‘manipulated media’ after the BJP leader shared a video on farmers’ protest. On November 28, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had shared the picture of a policeman whipping a baton towards an old farmer who was among the protesters of anti-farm bill demonstrations at Singhu border. “It is a very sad photo. Our slogan was ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ but today PM Modi’s arrogance made the jawan stand against the farmer,” the Congress leader had written.
Malviya quoted his tweet and uploaded a ‘Propaganda vs Reality’ video claiming the police “did not even touch the farmer.”
Soon, fact-checking websites called Malviya’s claim ‘untrue’. The video that he shared to prove his point was reportedly a cropped version of the actual footage of the police action against the farmers at the Singhu border.
Twitter red flags content posted on its platform if they are “significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated, if they shared in a deceptive manner, or if they are likely to impact public safety or cause harm.” Twitter also removes content if two or more criteria are met.