'Twitter should be cognisant of Indian laws as well'

Twitter should be cognisant of Indian laws as well: Ravi Shankar Prasad

As acrimony grows with Indian authorities, Twitter faces at least five police cases in different states

He said social media companies are free to do business in India but they have to be accountable to the Indian Constitution and laws. Credit: PTI file photo

If Twitter invoked a US copyright act to block a user's account, the company should also be cognisant of the laws in India where it is operating and earning money, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday.

"If you are going to invoke the digital copyright act of America then you have to also be cognisant of the copyright rules of India," the Minister said while addressing India Global Forum.

"You cannot say my whole stand will be regulated by an ex-parte assessment of the US law. For a happy blending of the role of Big Tech and democracy, a solution has to be found," Prasad said.

Read | Big Tech gears up for fight with Modi's India

Twitter last week was embroiled a row after it blocked Ravi Shankar Prasad's personal account account for an hour on a complaint made four years ago under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the US.

He said social media companies are free to do business in India but they have to be accountable to the Indian Constitution and laws.

"If democracy has to survive misinformation, fake news, colluded material...all these are challenges. I am not in favour of censoring but democracies have to find a common ground as far as these issues are concerned so that these big tech companies do their business, earn good money, good profit but become accountable. This can only happen if you follow law of the land," Prasad said.

Read | Parliament panel tells Facebook, Google they must follow new IT rules

Industry executives say India's tussle with Twitter, coupled with discontent over increasing regulatory scrutiny of other US digital giants such as Facebook's WhatsApp and Amazon, has soured the business environment in a growth market.

WhatsApp has 53 crore users while Facebook has 41 crore in India - their top market by users globally, while Twitter has 18 million users.

As acrimony grows with Indian authorities, Twitter faces at least five police cases in different states. Its non-compliance with new rules raised suggestions that Twitter may no longer enjoy legal protection in India over content posted by users.

On Wednesday, an Indian state challenged in the Supreme Court a bar on police action against Twitter's country head, Manish Maheshwari, after a lower court protected him against arrest over an accusation that the platform had been used to spread hate.

Police in Uttar Pradesh, ruled by Modi's party, issued a summons this month to Maheshwari over a video that they said had incited "hate and enmity" between Hindu and Muslim communities.

Twitter and police in Uttar Pradesh declined to comment. Maheshwari did not respond.

When Maheshwari approached the lower court, he argued that the investigation concerned content on the Twitter platform, which is run by Twitter Inc, a company "incorporated under the laws of the United States of America," according to a court filing seen by Reuters but not made public.

Twitter's Indian unit had no role in "operation and management of the said platform", the filing added.

The Uttar Pradesh case concerns the spread of a video in which some apparently Hindu men beat an elderly man, believed to be a Muslim, and cut his beard.

Other cases arose from complaints that some politically sensitive regions were depicted as outside India in a map on Twitter's careers website, or that child pornography was visible on its platform.

Twitter has not commented on the map cases. On Tuesday, it said it had a policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation of children.

With Reuters inputs

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