Srinagar, India, June 16 (EFE).- The Indian government on Wednesday slammed Twitter for “deliberately” choosing not to comply with new IT guidelines that became effective on May 26.
The new policy, called Intermediary Guidelines, announced in February, allows the government to assert more control over online news portals, social media, and video-streaming platforms.
One of the most contentious clauses of the new guidelines requires digital platforms to trace the originator of controversial messages for the “prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offense related to sovereignty and integrity of India.”
The government had on June 5 given Twitter “one last notice to immediately comply with the rules”, warning that failure to do so would mean the microblogging site “losing exemption from liability and draw penal provisions.”
Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in his tweet, did not explicitly say if Twitter lost its legal shield or intermediary protection in the country.
“The simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the intermediary guidelines,” Prasad said.
He added the government gave multiple opportunities to Twitter, but “it has deliberately chosen the path of non compliance.”
“It is astounding that Twitter which portrays itself as the flag bearer of free speech, chooses the path of deliberate defiance” to Indian laws.
He said Twitter had also failed to address user grievances by refusing to set up certain processes as mandated by the law.
The minister mentioned a recent alleged incident of lynching of an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad town, near the Indian capital, which he described as “illustrative of Twitter’s arbitrariness in fighting fake news.”
It was flagged as a communal incident on Twitter after the victim in a viral video alleged that a group of Hindu activists beat him up, forcibly cut his beard, and coerced him into chanting Hindu religious slogans.
The police, however, denied the communal angle and said the video was tweeted with an intent to provoke religious unrest.
The police named Twitter, two opposition leaders, and several Indian journalists, who shared the video, and a news outlet, in the case.
“There is no communal angle to the incident in Loni where a man was thrashed and his beard was chopped off,” the police said in its report.
The police report alleged that those named in the case shared the video without fact-checking and gave communal color to the incident.
“They started spreading messages to disrupt the peace and bring differences between the religious communities.”
India’s new IT guidelines have revived the self-regulation versus censorship debate in the country labeled “partly free” by Freedom House watchdog on the global internet freedom index.
Twitter and the Indian authorities recently clashed over government orders to block hundreds of accounts related to protests by farmers, as well as messages concerning alleged mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis.
Rights defenders have denounced such moves by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a censorship attempt.
“Ghaziabad Police files FIR (first information report) against various activists who tweeted the version of the old Muslim man (victim of Ghaziabad beating),” Leftist leader Kavita Krishnan tweeted.