Twitter trying to define nation's politics: Rahul

Twitter trying to define nation's politics: Rahul Gandhi on ban

He accused the social media platform of 'interfering' in the country's political process and trying to define the nation's politics

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Credit: PTI File Photo

Rahul Gandhi, whose account was temporarily suspended by Twitter, on Friday accused the social media platform of "interfering" in the country's political process  and trying to define the nation's politics, which he said amounted to "attack on the democratic structure of the country."

"It’s obvious now that Twitter is actually not a neutral, objective platform. It is a biased platform. It's something that listens to what the government of the day says. So this is not only patently unfair, this is their breaching the idea that Twitter is a neutral platform," Gandhi said in a video statement a day after Congress alleged that not only Rahul Gandhi's, the Twitter account of a number of other leaders were suspended as well.

Gandhi's account was temporarily suspended by Twitter last week after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) issued a notice to Twitter asking it to act against the Congress leader's handle for tweeting pictures of the family of a minor victim of alleged rape and murder in Delhi last week.

Also Read — Twitter locks Congress's official handle, party claims govt pressure

On Friday, NCPCR wrote to Facebook and Instagram about violation of Indian laws on their platforms after Gandhi shared posts on these platforms "revealing identity of victims" of the family of the nine-year-old girl.

While the NCPCR had cited the juvenile justice law that mandates the privacy of minor victims to argue for action against Rahul's twitter handle, Congress questioned Twitter as to why it did not act when a similar photo was tweeted by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.

Twitter has stuck to its guns saying that if a post is found to violate its rules and is not deleted by the account holder, the platform hides it behind a notice and the account remains locked until that tweet is removed or the appeal is successfully processed. It also argues the company's rules are enforced judiciously and impartially for everyone in its service.

"By shutting down my Twitter they are interfering in our political process. A company is making its business to define our politics and as a politician I don't like that," Gandhi said.

"This is an attack on the democratic structure of the country. This is not an attack on Rahul Gandhi. This is not you know simply shutting Rahul Gandhi down. I have 19-20 million followers. You are denying them the right to an opinion. That’s what you are doing..... And for the investors this is a very dangerous thing because taking sides in the political contest has repercussions for Twitter," the former Congress President said days after his party made a huge political campaign around the issue.

Also Read | Rahul shown the door from only place he was active: BJP    

Gandhi also shared an image saying "Digital Dadagiri nahi chalegi" on Instagram. He also shared his video message on Instagram.

On Thursday, Congress started  a campaign "I am Rahul Gandhi" with many party leaders including Priyanka Gandhi changing her profile picture with that of her brother Rahul. On Monday, Mahila Congress had organised a flash protest march from Press Club of India to Parliament while Youth Congress had led a protest  outside Twitter India office in the national capital, alleging that the government is trying to silence the voice being raised by the Opposition against the rape and murder of a dalit girl in Delhi. On August 8, a meeting of top party functionaries at the AICC also discussed the issues and decided to scale up the protest further, giving  "Daro Mat (don't be scared)" message  to the microblogging site.

Congress said the Twitter accounts of its Communication department chief Randeep Surjewala, AICC general secretaries K C Venugopal, Ajay Maken, party's Whip in Lok Sabha Manickam Tagore, Assam in-charge and former Union minister Jitendra Singh and Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev were also locked.

"Our democracy is under attack. We are not allowed to speak in Parliament. The media is controlled. And I thought there was a ray of light where we could put what we thought on Twitter. But obviously, that's not the case.  As Indians, we have to ask the question: are we going to allow companies just because they are beholden to the Government of India to define our politics for us?," Gandhi said, seeking to amplify the message from the temporary suspension of the account of the Congress leaders to the large issue of controlling the political narrative.

"Is that what this is going to come to? Or are we going to define our politics on our own? That's the real question here," Gandhi said.

His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted "Is Twitter following its own policy for the suspension of Congress leaders' accounts or the Modi government’s? Why hadn’t it locked the account of the SC commission that had tweeted similar photos before any of our leaders did? By locking Congress leaders' accounts en masse, Twitter is blatantly colluding with the stifling of democracy by the BJP government in India."

At an AICC press conference, Congress's spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said, "First it was Twitter and now it is Instagram where they are threatening to block us."

She stressed that the channels of communication cannot be banned for India’s principal opposition. "They cannot be banned specifically on the pretext that we are trying to be the voice of the voiceless," she said.

Also Read | Chair not as neutral as it should be: Chidambaram

 "I want to ask Twitter. What is the crime Rahul Gandhi has committed? He has gone and met the family of a nine-year-old Dalit girl, who was brutally raped, cremated against her mother’s wishes, all that was left of her was partially burnt legs. He has been asking for justice.'

The Congress spokesperson alleged Twitter is against its own prescribed public available policies of what they have done.

"They are in violation of their own policy. Twitter very categorically states that if you have shared personal information, which has already been available on a public platform, then it is not a violation of their policy. Rahul Gandhi  shared personal information or the pictures of those parents on  August 4. This was already available in the public domain through many platforms, including media, including the National Commission for Schedule Caste, we were not in violation, " she said

Congress MP Udit Raj alleged that Rahul Gandhi's  Twitter was locked, because he stood with the poor and the Dalits. "Our Congress Twitter handles are being locked because the Congress stood for ‘Dalit Beti’, that’s it," Raj said.

Clearly the Congress is not in a mood to lose the momentum on the issue as the idea of social media control resonates with people.