You just can’t keep Twitter off the headlines in India. Just as it is caught in a bitter fight with the Indian government, the microblogging site went ahead locked, albeit just for an hour, the Twitter account of Union IT Minister over an alleged copyright infringement. Further, it also similarly locked the Twitter account of a top opposition MP, Shashi Tharoor, who as it happened headed the parliamentary panel that questioned the company over its reluctance to comply to the India’s new IT rules.
Amidst all this unholy brouhaha, Twitter’s interim grievance officer has quit the post, barely weeks after his contentious appointment. As it happened, the beleaguered person, Dharmendra Chatur, has even deactivated his Twitter account. The social media company’s website displays the name of Jeremy Kessel, Twitter Inc’s global legal policy director as the designated grievance officer. And as per government’s rules, only a resident Indian can be appointed for the post.
So this would obviously set off another round of acrimonious exchange between the government and Twitter.
Twitter seems to be following a risky brinksmanship
But why did a man who was only weeks into the job suddenly walk out? It is a question that obviously begs an answer. But not easy to find, for obvious reasons. A lot is happening behind the screens.
Twitter has not said anything on record yet. But sources claim that the interim grievance officer, who was anyway not a full-fledged employee of the company, was not ready to carry the can for the transgressions of the company. Dharmendra Chatur was merely part of the law firm representing Twitter Inc in the court.
As the government’s gaze on Twitter became even more stringent, he did not want to be the fall guy.
While the Indian government’s intentions may not be entirely above board, it is kind of puzzling why Twitter is continuing its brinksmanship. If it says that it was following its rules to block the Union Minister’s account, the government is also merely insisting the microblogging platform to follow the its laws, which other companies have no problems complying with. As it trenchantly said, Twitter is undermining India’s legal system.
Why is Twitter refusing to appoint a designated grievance officer is something that everyone asks. The San Francisco-based company’s plan to clamber on to the moral high-ground falls flat when it is not respecting the law of the land, is the popular opinion.
Twitter-Indian govt: A farcical faceoff
There seems to be a pattern to Twitter’s ways, one intended to needle the government and the right wing ecosystem that backs it. There has been disagreement between Twitter and the government when the latter wanted to take action against accounts that trended #farmersgenocide during the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day. As the row escalated in the following months, Twitter temporarily removed the ‘verified’ badge from the Vice President’s personal Twitter account and from several accounts of RSS leaders including Mohan Bhagwat’s. Then it flagged a tweet of BJP leader Sambit Patra as manipulated media and very recently it blocked IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s Twitter account for an hour over alleged copyright infringement.
Raviji, the same thing just happened to me. Clearly DMCA is getting hyperactive. This tweet has been deleted by @Twitter because its video includes the copyrighted BoneyM song”Rasputin”: https://t.co/ClgP2OKV1o #DanceIsNotJihad pic.twitter.com/IqQD50WhaUAfter process, a/c unlocked. https://t.co/TCeT8aGxV6June 25, 2021
The thing is if there was a violation of copyright, the offending video can be removed. Blocking the account is not right. As Shashi Tharoor said, “Twitter has a lot to learn.”
The government has slammed Twitter for deliberate defiance and failure to comply with the country’s new IT rules. The new rules which came into effect from May 25 mandate social media companies to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for resolving complaints from the users or victims.
Meanwhile, Twitter has lost its intermediary status in India and is now editorially responsible for what users post on the platform. After this, Uttar Pradesh Police lodged an FIR against Twitter over a fake video, for which Twitter India MD Manish Maheshwari was called by the police to join the probe, but Karnataka high court has granted Maheshwari relief and said that no coercive action can be taken against him.
Twitter is teetering on the edge, and its approach is baffling considering the fact that India is its third biggest market in the world.