GOVERNANCE/ INTERNAL SECURITY
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- GS-3: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges
Social Media Regulation: Centre’s Notice to Twitter – Part 2
Click here for the Part 1 of the issue (Background of issue & analysis from legal perspective)
Twitter has not complied fully with the Indian government’s statutory orders under Section 69A of IT Act because of following arguments
- Legitimate Voices: Twitter has said that the government’s blocking list had accounts of journalists, activists, and politicians whose accounts appear to be bonafide; that their posts are legitimate expression
- Disproportionate Order: Twitter has said that it reasonably believes that keeping them blocked would be a disproportionate act contrary to both Indian law and the platform’s charter objectives.
Criticism of Twitter Actions
- Disrespecting Indian Laws: Twitter is an intermediary bound by statutory orders of the government under the Act, and its refusal shows a lack of respect for Indian law.
- Twitter is not the Judge: Twitter, as a private company, cannot adjudicate or sit in appeal over the government’s judgment on what is proportionate or lawful. It may challenge the order in a court, but cannot simply choose to comply partially or not at all
- Inconsistency in its actions: Twitter’s blocking of Donald Trump’s account even while he was the sitting President of the U.S. and its refusal to block here shows it denying parity to India with the U.S.
- Impunity of Big Tech: Twitter’s defiance indicates the increasing power and impunity of Big Tech, requiring a clear and unequivocal zero tolerance response.
Counter Arguments to Criticisms
- Powers of Government is not absolute: Twitter appears to have justifiably formed an informed opinion that the blocking orders, even if validly issued under Section 69A(1) of the IT Act, are partly not lawful and that it is confident of succeeding in a challenge to the orders should the government take any coercive action to enforce them.
- Upholding Fundamental Rights: It is undeniable that platforms such as Twitter have significant control over how people’s right to free and informed speech is fulfilled. Mechanically following government orders without regard to their lawfulness, necessity or proportionality will seriously impact their audience’s fundamental rights
- Checks on arbitrary Power needed for Democracy: The tension between two powerful entities — the government and social media platforms — on questions of which speech to promote and whose speech to curtail is healthy and constructive. It acts as a check on the arbitrary power that would prevail if both were on the same side as a matter of routine.
- Not a fair comparison with Trumps case: With regard to US President’s Trump’s misleading tweets, Twitter initially resorted to the less intrusive measure of flagging his content, followed by limiting its reach before suspending his account. All of these actions weresuo motu and not under government orders.
- Social media platforms enjoy better immunity and warmer first amendment protection under U.S. law that help them better guard their users’ interests against government action. The attempt to extend similar safeguards to Indian users, who also in theory are guaranteed the same protection under a universal human rights regime, is welcome.
- Structural and institutional solutions must be found to limit the power of both the government and Big Tech and to enforce their obligation to act rationally and responsibly.
Connecting the dots:
- The dominance of Big Tech: Click here