Cong MP raises issue of social media censorship in RS

Congress MP Rajeev Gowda on Thursday raised the issue of censorship including suspension of prominent activist's accounts

Congress MP MV Rajeev Gowda speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019. (PTI Photo)

 Raising the issue of social media platforms "censoring" user-generated content, Congress MP M V Rajeev Gowda on Thursday said the government should come out with guidelines on what should be the basis for these "takedowns".

Speaking during the Zero Hour in Rajya Sabha, Gowda said Twitter accounts of senior lawyer Sanjay Hegde, journalist Barkha Dutt and Dalit activists were suspended.

Hedge's account was recently suspended by Twitter for the innocuous cover photo of a resistor to the Narcissist while Dutt's Twitter account was suspended for tweeting images of abusive messages that she had received, he said.

"What we see here is that there is a structural problem out there with unregulated internet platforms and they need to bring in some guidelines so that we have a clear sense of what is allowed and what is not and, appeal mechanisms which will function properly. Otherwise, we are seeing free speech subject to private censorship," Gowda said.

He said Twitter Hashtags, FaceBook posts, Youtube comments among others have become "new platforms for debate and discussion" and these are the "platforms now where the discussions take place".

Quoting former Chief Justice Thakur who remarked that the standards generally applicable to judicial review of State action should be applied in this context also to regulate them, he said these sorts of violations have been going on for some time.

"Dalit activists have found their accounts suspended while hashtags like Hashtag Boycott have been allowed. So, this has to change. Another issue related to this is about numerous internet shutdowns that have been taking place. There has been one report which says that the Indian Government sends the most number of takedown requests to a variety of internet intermediaries," he added.

He said he wanted to know from the government on what basis these takedowns are taking place and these are all "shrouded in secrecy".

"Section 69 of the Information Technology Act is being used indiscriminately. So, I urge the Government to frame guidelines in this regard," he added. 

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