Parliamentary Panel on Twitter
26, Feb 2019
Prelims level : Mains level : GS 3: Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention
- A parliamentary panel asked Twitter to engage more actively with the Election Commission and respond to fake news and inflammatory posts in “real time” as the country heads into a general election.
- A parliamentary committee, headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur, on asked Twitter to ensure that Indian elections were not undermined and influenced by foreign entities.
- It also told the social media giant to ensure there is no foreign interference that could influence voters, said people with direct knowledge of the matter. This could take place through advertising or fake news as observed in the 2016 US elections.
- The committee members unanimously issued strict instructions (to Twitter) that no international interference should be allowed in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
- They have been asked to ensure that the integrity of their platform is not violated so that there can be free and fair elections.
- The panel also said that Twitter can’t choose to suppress certain opinions, which is significant in the context of reports that a Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman has accused the platform of bias. It was sternly conveyed that no sort of bias should be applied by Twitter by selectively throttling news feed of a section of individuals. Another panel member said that Twitter was asked to engage with and adhere to the directives of the Election Commission on fake news, inflammatory posts etc. Twitter has been asked to resolve such issues in real time, so that no misinformation occurs.
- As per data made available by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Twitter’s compliance rate, in acting against those creating a negative atmosphere online against the Indian security forces and threatening the national security, is close to 60%.
- The current compliance rate is unsatisfactory and needs to be improved significantly. It is imperative that Twitter responds promptly and swiftly to requests made by the Indian
- security agencies, especially in times of crisis. Twitter has failed to give clear answers to some questions raised by the panel, as per available information. It has been given 10 days to respond to those questions in writing. These include “whether Twitter is registered in India and whether it stands registered as a technology or media company; number of employees working for Twitter India”.
- The panel has also asked Twitter to “improve its grievance redressing mechanism” which a few panel members described as “slow and non- transparent”.
- It was conveyed to Twitter that if the redressal mechanism is made robust, allegations of bias against the platform will automatically be redressed.
- In a related development, the panel has summoned senior officials of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram on March 6. The committee will discuss issues of data privacy and safeguarding of citizen rights on social media and online news portals.