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Twitter Temporarily 'Denies Access' to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's Account; Allows After 'Warning'

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (PTI/File)

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad (PTI/File)

Though the Twitter account of the Minister was visible for public viewing, Twitter did not permit anyone authorized to access this account to log in or make any post.

Minister for Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad was today reportedly denied access to his own account on Twitter for almost an hour, government sources said. Though the Twitter account of the Minister was visible for public viewing, Twitter did not permit anyone authorized to access this account to log in or make any post, they added.

When the minister and his team tried to log in to the Twitter account @rsprasad, they were presented a message saying, “Your account has been locked because Twitter received a compliant Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Notice for content posted to your Twitter account. Under the DMCA copyright owners can notify Twitter claiming that a user has infringed their copyrighted works. Upon receipt of a valid notice, Twitter will remove the identified material. Twitter maintains a repeat copyright infringer policy under repeat infringer accounts will be suspended. Accruing multiple DMCA strikes may lead to suspension of your account.”

The minister took to indigenous social messaging app Koo and later Twitter too to share his ‘peculiar’ experience.

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About an hour later, however, government sources said that Twitter allowed access to the account by posting a warning message to the minister’s account stating, “Your account is now available for use. Please be aware that any additional notices against your account may result in your account being locked again and potentially suspended. In order to avoid this, do not post additional material in violation of our Copyright Policy and immediately remove any material from your account for which you are not authorised to post.”

Sources from the minister’s team said that Twitter neither gave them any prior intimation before blocking access to the account nor did it specify any content that was found violating the US laws on copyright.

Aprameya Radhakrishna, CEO and co-founder of Koo, Twitter’s rival and homegrown social messaging app, slammed the move saying that the microblogging site should have first given a warning.

“Giving a user complete context of any claimed violation and an intimation of the exact violation is important. The user should also be able to contest or accept the claimed violation. A direct action of suspension without the above makes it seem like a social media platform is taking the final judgement call and is not being an intermediary," he said.

Rule 4 (8) of the newly notified Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 clearly stipulates that whenever content that does not belong to the user is shared on a social media platform the social media intermediary shall ensure that prior to removing or disabling access, it has provided the user who has shared such content with a notification explaining the action being taken and the grounds or reasons for such action.

Twitter and the government have been at loggerheads over multiple instances in the past months, including during the farmers’ protest and later when the microblogging platform tagged political posts of several leaders of the ruling party BJP as “manipulated media", triggering a sharp rebuke from the Centre.

Earlier this month, the Centre had issued a notice to Twitter giving it one last chance to “immediately" comply with the new IT rules and warned that failure to adhere to the norms will lead to the platform losing exemption from liability under the IT Act.

The government, earlier this week, slammed Twitter for deliberate defiance and failure to comply with the IT rules, which has led to the US giant losing its intermediary status in India and becoming liable for users posting any unlawful content. Twitter has allegedly not fully complied with the new rules, called Intermediary Guidelines, that mandate setting up grievance redressal mechanism and appointing officers to coordinate with law enforcement. The rules became effective from May 26 and Twitter, even after the expiry of the additional time, had not appointed the requisite officers, leading to it losing the ‘safe harbour’ immunity.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT, chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, had summoned Twitter officials over issues related to misuse of the platform and protection of citizens’ rights. On Friday, members of the panel asked some tough and searching questions to Twitter India officials but their answers lacked clarity and were ambiguous, sources said.

The members strongly objected to the observation of Twitter India officials that its policy is on par with the rule of land and categorically told them “rule of land is supreme, not your policy", sources said.

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