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Action will be taken if social media is used to spread fake news, violence: Ravi Shankar Prasad

A day after the Centre’s strong-worded response to Twitter to respect the Indian laws and democratic institutions, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in the Rajya Sabha warned of action against social media spreading fake news. “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 is misused to spread fake news and violence, then action will be taken,” Prasad said on Thursday. 

The statement assumes significance as the Jack Dorsey-led microblogging platform seems to be embroiled in a standoff with the Indian government over the blocking and unblocking of accounts linked to the farmer protests.

The government on Wednesday expressed “strong displeasure” over Twitter’s delay in taking prompt action against accounts and hashtags spreading misinformation and provocative content around the farmers’ stir, as the IT Ministry made it clear that the company must comply with the country’s laws irrespective of the platform’s own rules.

During a virtual interaction between IT Secretary and senior officials of Twitter, the government told the microblogging platform that as a business entity operating in India, it must respect the laws and democratic institutions and take strong action against “well-coordinated” campaigns “designed to create disharmony and unrest” in the country.

Slamming the delay by the platform in complying with government orders on taking down provocative content around farmers’ stir, the IT Secretary also expressed dissatisfaction over Twitter’s “differential treatment” in case of the US Capitol Hill siege, where it had taken prompt action.

“Secretary reminded Twitter about the action taken by Twitter during the Capitol Hill episode in the USA and compared that with the disturbance in Red Fort in India and its aftermath. He expressed dissatisfaction over Twitter’s differential treatment in the two incidents,” the IT Ministry said in a statement.

Twitter representatives were reminded that while the government values freedom of speech and expression and takes criticism in its stride, such freedom is “not absolute” and subject to reasonable restrictions under the Constitution.

 

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