Twitter, SM Platforms Will Have To Take Into Consideration Indian Laws If They Want To Do Business In India: IT MinisterUnion Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via GettyImages) 

The Centre on Thursday (11 February) categorically cautioned social media platforms against spreading fake news or anything inciting violence, as Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said action will be taken if Indian laws were flouted.

“There is freedom of speech but Article 19A says that this is subject to reasonable restrictions,” the Minister for Communications, Electronics & Information Technology told in the Rajya Sabha as he reminded platforms like Twitter and Facebook to comply with Indian rules while carrying out business.

“We respect social media a lot, it has empowered common people. Social media has a big role in the Digital India programme. However, if social media are misused to spread fake news and violence, then action will be taken on the misuse of social media in India whether Twitter or else,” said Prasad.

He said all the social media platforms will have to adhere to the constitution of India. The Indian constitution allows criticism of the government and the Prime Minister, but spreading fake news will not be allowed, he said.

Prasad said, “We have flagged certain issues to Twitter and social media has to take into consideration of the Indian Laws if they want to do business in the country.

“Different parameters can’t be allowed for different countries. It can’t be different for the Capitol Hill incident and some other parameters and for the Red Fort incident.”

The Indian government on Wednesday (10 February) expressed displeasure over Twitter’s delayed compliance on its order to remove “provocative” tweets amid the ongoing farmers’ protests.

IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney expressed Centre’s displeasure to Twitter’s management.

An official statement issued late Wednesday (10 February) night said the Secretary told Monique Meche, Vice President, Global Public Policy and Jim Baker, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President Legal of Twitter that delayed compliance to lawfully passed orders are “meaningless”.

“Lawfully passed orders are binding on any business entity. They must be obeyed immediately. If they are executed days later, it becomes meaningless,” Sawhney was quoted as saying in the statement.

The official expressed his deep disappointment to Twitter leadership about the manner in which Twitter has unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay complied with the substantial parts of the order, the statement said.

He also told Twitter that in India its Constitution and laws are supreme.

Responding to a question by Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Prasad in a written reply said that social media and digital media platforms, for the third party information hosted on their computer resource, are intermediaries in the context of the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000.

"They are required to follow certain due diligence as specified in the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 notified under section 79 of the IT Act. This includes publishing of terms and conditions of their platform and privacy policy," Prasad said.

They are also expected to inform the users not to host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that is harmful, objectionable, and unlawful in any way, the minister said.

Also, section 79 of the Act provides that intermediaries are required to disable/remove unlawful content relatable to Article 19(2) of the Constitution, on being notified either through a court order or by appropriate government or its agency, he added.

"These Rules are being amended to make social media platforms more responsive and accountable to Indian laws. These Rules will also make digital media platforms to adhere to Code of Ethics," Prasad said.

(With inputs from IANS)

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