Amid the ongoing tussle between the Centre and Twitter, Supreme Court has issued a notice to both of them over a PIL filed by a BJP leader Vinit Goenka seeking directions to the Centre government to form a proper mechanism to keep a check on the fake news and instigative messages on social media.
The Public Interest Litigation filed through advocate Ashwini Kumar Dubey sought a mechanism to screen the hateful advertisements and anti-India content.
The bench led by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde has issued the notice to centre and Twitter, and has asked to tag the matter along with other pending petitions related to social media regulation.
The petitioner argued that in the absence of a proper mechanism or a law to check online content, social media platforms such as Twitter and others have been used by some persons to amplify and call out for activities that are against the spirit of the Union of India.
He further added, “The said platform(Twitter) is being used to call upon separatist, creating panic in some sections of the society, challenging the unity, integrity, and sovereignty of India.”
BJP leader Goenka alleged that Twitter knowingly promotes messages which are against the law of the land. “Twitter and social media companies are profit-making companies and expecting them to have safeguards for making social media safe and secure is important. The logic and algorithms that Twitter use should be shared and vetted by Indian government authorities or competent authority for screening anti-India tweets,” the plea said.
Twitter has taken down over 97% of the accounts that were flagged by the Indian Ministry. The government had issued two orders which demanded to block the Twitter handles for spreading inflammatory hashtags like “farmers genocide” and supporting pro-Pakistan and pro-Khalistan agendas. In the first order, the IT Ministry has flagged the Twitter handles of 1,435 users and 1,178 in the second.
A few days back, the IT Ministry held a meeting with the social media platform Twitter and expressed its displeasure towards the way Twitter acted after an emergency order. Prior to the meeting, Twitter had refused to comply with the government order to block the accounts of few politicians, news media entities, and journalists through a blog post. It was further mentioned that complying to this order would amount to infringement of freedom of speech.
“Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law,” said the blog post.
Information Technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reprimanded Twitter in the Thursday Parliament session. He stated that social media platforms cannot give differential treatment while handling problems on Capitol Hill and the Red Fort.
He further added that the government was committed to freedom of media and rights of individuals but it was equally concerned about the safety, security, law and order in the country.
“Please don’t spread enmity, violence and misinformation. Please follow the Constitution of India and the law of the land. Today I want to clearly state that be it Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or WhatsApp, they are free to work in India but they need to abide by the Constitution of India and laws of India,” IT Minister said.