Twitter India has confirmed that it is in talks with the Indian government following complaints against it of “discriminatory and unfair practices” by an activist-lawyer.
The Indian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Information Technology, led by Anurag Thakur, a high-profile legislator of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has summoned Twitter officials to appear before it on 11 February to answer questions on its alleged bias against right-wing/centre-right accounts.
The BJP and many others independent of party affiliations but with centre-right or right-wing beliefs term the views expressed on these twitter accounts as “nationalist.” The allegation against Twitter is that it is suspending accounts which either support “Indic ideals or the current government”.
Social and traditional media in India is abuzz with parallels being drawn between these developments and the appearance of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg before the US Senate Committee to answer questions on privacy, data mining and bias.
It is unclear, however, who will represent Twitter at the 11 February meeting called by the Indian Parliamentary Committee.
The issue has acquired political overtones and polarised opinion in the country as India heads for a general election in April-May 2019.
The micro-blogging platform in a statement said it is in touch with the Indian government on the issue: “Discussions with the government on this issue are currently on and nothing further can be said till further clarity.”
The Parliamentary Committee will examine the issue of “Safeguarding citizens’ rights on social media/online news platforms”, the BJP MP who heads it tweeted today.
The chain of events was sparked off by activist-lawyer Ishkaran Singh Bhandari who met the Indian Interior (home) Minister Rajnath Singh last week with a detailed representation alleging “discriminatory and unfair practices” by Twitter, which he said were a “threat to national security”.
As India gears up for polls, owners of global social media platforms are in a huddle over how to curb the spread of misinformation and fake news in the country on their platforms.
Addressing a town-hall meeting at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi in November 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had said the company was taking “multi-variable steps” to curb the spread of misleading information ahead of the 2019 general election.
Twitter’s growth trajectory in India, though it is still behind WhatsApp, has been going up steadily.