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Twitter must obey India’s laws says IT minister

NEW DELHI: India’s technology minister said yesterday that US social media giants must obey the laws of his country, where they are doing brisk business.

The comments by IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad follow accusations by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government that Twitter Inc had violated rules requiring it to appoint new compliance officers.

“You operate in India, you make good money in India … but you will take the position that ‘I will only be governed by laws of America’ … This is plainly not acceptable,” Prasad said during the India Global Forum 2021 event.

“You have to be accountable to India’s constitution and India’s laws.”

The minister also objected to a recent brief block imposed by Twitter on his account for a tweet he issued years ago, as it violated US laws, saying the platform must then also obey Indian laws.

Industry executives say India’s tussle with Twitter, coupled with discontent over increasing regulatory scrutiny of other US digital giants such as Facebook’s WhatsApp and Amazon, has soured the business environment in a growth market.

Cases

WhatsApp has 530 million users while Facebook has 410m in India – their top market by users globally, while Twitter has 18m users.

As acrimony grows with Indian authorities, Twitter faces at least five police cases in different states. Its non-compliance with new rules raised suggestions that Twitter may no longer enjoy legal protection in India over content posted by users.

Yesterday, an Indian state challenged in the Supreme Court a bar on police action against Twitter’s country head, Manish Maheshwari, after a lower court protected him against arrest over an accusation that the platform had been used to spread hate.

Police in Uttar Pradesh, ruled by Modi’s party, issued a summons this month to Maheshwari over a video that they said had incited “hate and enmity” between communities.

When Maheshwari approached the lower court, he argued that the investigation concerned content on the Twitter platform, which is run by Twitter Inc, a company “incorporated under the laws of the United States of America,” according to a court filing seen by Reuters but not made public.

Twitter’s Indian unit had no role in “operation and management of the said platform”, the filing added.

 

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