India asks social media firms to ‘abide by laws’

Published February 12, 2021
Volunteers bake bread at a community kitchen set up by the agitating farmers along a blocked highway, near the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border.—AFP
Volunteers bake bread at a community kitchen set up by the agitating farmers along a blocked highway, near the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border.—AFP

NEW DELHI: Indian technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad warned US social media firms on Thursday to abide by the country’s laws, a day after a face-off between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration and Twitter over content regulation.

Speaking in parliament on Thursday, information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad mentioned Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WhatsApp by name and said they were welcome to operate in India, but only if they play by India’s rules.

“You will have to follow the Constitution of India, you will have to abide by the laws of India,” Prasad said India rebuked Twitter on Wednesday after the U.S. social media giant did not fully comply with a government order to take down over 1,100 accounts and posts that New Delhi says spread misinformation about current farmer protests against new agriculture reforms.

Twitter said it had not blocked all of the content because it believed the directives were not in line with Indian laws. It permanently suspended some accounts and geo-blocked access to many others in India, though their posts could be read outside the country, the company said.

That prompted censure from India’s tech ministry and calls from politicians to urge their followers to join Twitter’s home-grown local rival, Koo.

Twitter has since blocked access to the bulk of accounts it was ordered to take down, an IT ministry source told Reuters, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.

Twitter declined to comment.

It was not immediately clear whether those accounts had been suspended or geo-blocked.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2021

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