Indian law and justice minister blocked from Twitter account for ‘almost an hour’

·3-min read
File: Indian minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses a press conference in New Delhi on 2 February, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
File: Indian minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses a press conference in New Delhi on 2 February, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

A federal minister in India said on Friday that Twitter denied him access to his account for almost an hour for an alleged copyright violation.

India’s information technology and law and justice minister Ravi Shankar Prasad shared two screenshots, with the first showing a notice that his account has been locked because Twitter received a compliant that there was a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the US for content posted to his account.

The second showed that his account was subsequently available for use, but the company warned that any additional notices would result in the account getting locked again and potentially suspended.

It was not immediately clear which of his posts violated the DMCA.

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Mr Prasad claimed that it is “apparent that my statements calling out the high handedness and arbitrary actions of Twitter, particularly sharing the clips of my interviews to TV channels and its powerful impact, have clearly ruffled its feathers.”

This comes amidst a standoff between Twitter and the Indian government over compliance with the country’s new IT rules which became effective in late May.

He said that “it’s clear” why Twitter has not yet complied with India’s IT rules. “If Twitter does comply, it would be unable to arbitrarily deny access to an individual’s account which does not suit their agenda,” he said in a tweet.

He said: “Twitter’s actions indicate that they are not the harbinger of free speech that they claim to be but are only interested in running their own agenda, with the threat that if you do not tow the line they draw, they will arbitrarily remove you from their platform.”

But the minister reiterated that platforms will have to abide by the new IT rules in India and there will be “no compromise on that.” Twitter officials are yet to respond to the latest incident involving the minister’s account.

The new IT rules passed by India this year require social media companies to comply with policies including taking down posts deemed unlawful by authorities and appointing a grievance and a chief compliance officer.

Mr Prasad had earlier accused Twitter of deliberately not complying with local laws.

“There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision. However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May,” Mr Prasad had said in a long thread on 16 June.

He said Twitter was given multiple opportunities to comply, but it has deliberately chose “the path of non compliance.”

Twitter had said earlier that it was making every effort to abide by the new regulations and it had appointed an interim chief compliance officer in India.

In a separate case, police summoned Twitter's India head Manish Maheshwari earlier this month over allegations that the platform failed to stop the spread of a video that the police said incited religious discord. On Thursday, a court gave him relief in that case.

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