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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Twitter bares its fangs, removes blue tick from VP handle, top RSS functionaries

The social media platform Twitter again demonstrated its arbitrary and unilateral decision-making on Friday by removing the ‘blue-tick’ verification from Vice President of Bharat M Venkaiah Naidu’s personal Twitter handle.

After a massive uproar, Twitter quietly restored the blue-tick verification within a few hours. Twitter has not provided any explanation as yet for withdrawing the verification of a Constitutional figure. It has also emerged that Twitter has recently withdrawn the blue-tick verification from handles of several top leaders of the RSS.

To many observers, such actions reaffirms Twitter’s undeclared bias against nationalist forces, and governments considered to be inadequately subservient to the US-led international liberal order. Over the last one year, it has become increasingly clear that US Big Tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon are now functioning like extended arms of the US Democratic party and the Biden administration.

Earlier, Twitter had suspended the official account of the official account of Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha, providing a vague reasoning, “Twitter suspends accounts that violate the Twitter Rules”. The account was later restored. Even before that, Twitter had temporarily locked Home Minister’s Amit Shah’s account claiming a copyright violation over his disipaly image.

Twitter had also recently marked tweets by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra and others which referred to the Congress tooklit (a strategy document on how to exploit the pandemic for political gain by creating a narrative against the Modi government, Hindu festivals like Kumbh and shaming Bharat globally), as ‘manipulated media’, thus validating the Congress defense that the document had been forged.

Refusal to comply with law of the land

Twitter has refused to comply with the new guidelines issued by the Government of Bharat, requiring social media intermediaries like itself to establish a local grievance redressal mechanism and act in a time-bound manner towards court/govt orders.

Twitter said that the new rules are against ‘freedom of expression’, inviting a swift response from the government about how Twitter needs to stop grandstanding and comply with the law. The government reminded Twitter about how it has failed to comply with Bharatiya law in several cases: geo-tagging locations in Ladakh as part of China, failing to remove content inciting more violence after the Red Fort violence etc.

Bharat is not the only country where Twitter and Big Tech is having run ins with Governments.

On Friday, Nigeria banned Twitter indefinitely after the platform deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari in which he had warned secessionist groups in the southeast who had been responsible for attacks on government offices. Twitter said the tweet violated its ‘abusive behavior’ policy.

Russia has fined Twitter 27.9 million rubles (about $380,000) since April for its failure to remove banned content. Meanwhile, Poland’s government has recently passed new legislation that strips Big Tech companies from the power to ban users or remove content from social media at their whims and fancies. Poland’s new legislation dictates that if any platform bans a user or removes posts for ideological reasons, hefty fines of up to $13.5 million would be imposed.

“Freedom of speech is not something that anonymous moderators working for private companies should decide. Instead, that is for the national body; duly elected officials,”  Deputy Polish Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta said.

The 27-nation European Union has drafted very strict rules that provide for huge fines ranging from 6 to 10% of the annual turnover for Internet giants found breaking the new rules which require these companies to do much more to tackle illegal content. The companies will also be required to publish details of their online advertisers and show the parameters used by their algorithms to suggest and rank information.

Facebook and Google are also facing court cases in the US, mostly filed by state governments, for unfair business practices. In Australia, top tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft have agreed on adopting the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation that aims to address the spread of fake news and disinformation on online platforms.

Yesterday, the Government of Bharat issued a final warning to Twitter to immediately comply with the new rules for social media companies or face consequences.

“The refusal to comply demonstrates Twitter’s lack of commitment and efforts towards providing a safe experience for the people of India on its platform,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in notice on Saturday, adding it is giving “one last notice” to the site to comply as a “gesture of goodwill.”

A Twitter spokesperson in New Delhi declined to comment.

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