In a blistering attack against Twitter, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad raised questions over the identity and the appointment of the so-called fact-checkers that are used by the social media behemoth to regulate the content posted on its platform. Prasad slammed social media websites, most notably Twitter, for employing prejudiced “fact-checkers”, who harboured visceral hatred for PM Modi.
Social media companies already have appointed fact checkers. Who are these fact-checkers and how are they appointed? There are some fact-checkers whose main agenda is drive hatred against Modi. pic.twitter.com/NGDPucI8ea— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) May 29, 2021
“There are many fact-checkers employed by the company. For example, if someone tweets something, these fact-checkers check whether it is right or wrong. Who are these fact-checkers? Neither are their names made public, nor there is any information on how they have been appointed. These people have the responsibility of regulating what 130 crore Indians can tweet,” Prasad said.
Criticising that the fact-checkers employed by social media organisations are inherently jaundiced against PM Modi, Prasad said some of them are bankrolled by forces that want the country to be dismembered into smaller states.
He said, “These fact checkers have just one agenda: Hate Modi. They don’t want to criticise, they just want to hate Modi. And these people are financially supported by such people who want to see country split into pieces. Is it not our job to monitor this? In a country of 130 crores, can’t you get neutral objective fact-checkers? These questions will be asked and they should be asked,” Prasad said.
The Minister for Electronics and Information Technology also faulted Twitter for the accusations it had levelled against the government of India. Prasad said the company has all the right to operate the way it wants to but the way it operates cannot remain shrouded in secrecy.
“What you do is your job and your right. But how you do it should be made public. That’s why the government had to release an elaborate response yesterday. A US-based for-profit making company is lecturing us on democracy? They are teaching us about the freedom of expression? This is unacceptable,” Prasad emphatically added.
The controversy erupted after Twitter presumptuously added the “manipulated media” label against tweets posted by BJP leaders on the Congress toolkit. A case is going on in the matter, with the Delhi Police claiming that Twitter had been providing evasive, obfuscatory answers to the questions regarding evidence that proved the toolkit to be fake. The controversy also came at a time when the Indian government brought in new digital laws. Most of the social media platforms barring Twitter have complied with the new laws.
Indian government issues a strongly worded response to Twitter over its misleading and obfuscating statements
Prasad’s criticism of Twitter came days after the Indian government responded with a strongly worded rebuttal to Twitter’s misleading and obfuscating statements to media today regarding Indian laws and its so-called policies. The govt has stated that “protecting free speech in India” is the responsibility of the Indian government and not the prerogative of a private, for-profit, foreign entity like Twitter.
Calling Twitter’s statement ‘an attempt to dictate its terms to the world’s largest democracy, the Union ministry fo Electronics and IT stated that through its actions and deliberate defiance, Twitter is seeking to undermine India’s legal system. The ministry stated that Twitter is refusing to comply with the very regulations in the intermediary guidelines on the basis of which it is claiming a safe harbour protection from any criminal liability in India.
If Twitter is so committed, why it did not set up such a mechanism in India on its own?, the ministry asked, while stating that Twitter India representatives routinely try to evade responsibility by claiming they have no authority and the people of India will have to reach out to Twitter headquarters in the USA. It called Twitter’s claims of ‘commitment to India’ as hollow and self-serving.