Parl panel chairman Anurag Thakur hints at action against Twitter

Parl panel chairman Anurag Thakur hints at action against Twitter

Agency News

New Delhi, Feb 9: A Parliamentary panel on Saturday hinted at initiating breach of privilege action against Twitter and its top brass for defying to appear before it on Monday February 11.

The parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology headed by BJP lawmaker Anurag Thakur and which also includes veteran L K Advani, has already written to the Twitter to depute a senior executive before the panel on February 11.

"It may be noted that the Head of the company has to appear before the Committee,” the Committee had stated adding the person may be 'accompanied' by another representative as well.

Sources said next meeting of the panel will be on Monday, February 11 when the committee will take cognisance of the "views of the representatives" of the Union Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and Twitter on the subject 'Safeguarding citizens rights on social/online news media platforms'.

However, Twitter had intimated to the panel that CEO of the company cannot make the appearance.

"At this stage, I can only say that the reply of Twitter has been taken seriously by the committee," Mr Thakur told a television channel.

"We have taken a serious note of this. It is a very serious subject and the kind of reply they have given will be discussed in the parliamentary committee," he said.

Among others the panel has members such as Prasun Banerjee (Trinamool), Hema Malini, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, L K Advani and Virender Kashyap (all BJP), P Karunakaran (CPI-M), Raj Babbar (Congress) and K G Kenye (NPF) besides Mr Anurag Thakur.

Answering questions, he said while he would not discuss the 'merits' of the case, there were indications that a section of the ruling dispensation was not happy over the fact that the Twitter has reportedly encouraged left leaning and anti-government tweets in recent past.

"If a Parliamentary committee calls anyone, they have to go. If any one refused, the committee's chairman and the Speaker and Chairman of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha Chairman can take a decision," said Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

In fact, Indian Parliament will be the fourth legislature after Singapore, European Union and the US Congress to probe into the issue of abuse of political content and conduct of the popular and globally acclaimed micro blogging site Twitter.

Displeased at its perceived pro-Democrat stance, US President Donald Trump had recently slammed Twitter for "shadow banning" Republicans.

Another BJP lawmaker and former Law Minister Dr Subramanian Swamy also said the Twitter declining to come parliamentary committee is a "very serious matter".

"It's a very serious matter about refusing the Parliament summons and it is a breach of Parliament. If they refuse to comply, a notice can be sent to Twitter from Home Ministry or somebody," he said.

In a communique to the panel, Twitter has expressed inability for its CEO to appear before it, saying it was called in for appearance with a very short duration time gap.

Sources said the stance taken by Twitter top brass is surprising as the notice was issued on February 1 and in view of the request from Twitter - the February 7 meeting of the panel was deferred to February 11 to allow the Twitter CEO or senior officials more time.

It may be mentioned here in view of ensuing polls, Facebook announced 'new standards' for political advertising in India in its efforts to prevent election-time abuse.

Twitter has maintained that its product and policies are 'never developed nor evolved' on the basis of political ideology. It has also announced that - "Abuse and hateful conduct comes from accounts across the ideological spectrum and Twitter will continue to take action when its rules are broken".

“Every tweet and every account is treated impartially. We apply our policies fairly and judiciously for all. If there are ‘false positive’ decisions, these are not political statements of intent; they are the basic human error rate of running the fastest, most open conversational tool in history,” Colin Crowell, global vice president (public policy) at Twitter has said.

In a blog, he further wrote: "We have made more than 70 product, policy, and operational changes since the beginning of 2018, all with the aim of making people feel safe expressing themselves on our service.....To be clear, we do not review, prioritize, or enforce our policies on the basis of political ideology. Every Tweet and every account is treated impartially. We apply our policies fairly and judiciously for all". (UNI)