Parliamentary panel hints at action against Twitter

Twitter

New Delhi,
Feb 9. Hours after Twitter declined to appear before a parliamentary
committee on information technology
on Monday citing short notice, the
committee headed by Anurag Thakur has hinted that it will initiate
breach of privilage action against it and its brass.

“Of
course it can be an issue of breach of parliamentary privilege. They are taking
advantage of the world’s biggest market and are unwilling to answer,” Thakur
told media.

He said the
reply of Twitter has been taken seriously by the committee, and “we
will take a serious note of it”.

“It is
a very serious subject, and the kind of reply they have given will be discussed
in the parliamentary committee, and we will take further action on that,”
he said.

BJP national
spokesperson Meenakashi Lekhi earlier in the day also warned Twitter of
“repercussions” and said no agency in any country has the right to
disrespect its institutions.

“In
this situation, if Twitter is disrespecting the established institution of
Parliament, then there are repercussions,” she said at a press conference.

“There
are repercussions because in any democratic country, institutions need to be
respected by the world powers,” Lekhi said.

“If
there is any violation of any sort, then there are repercussions to those
violations…The institutions need to be respected,” she added.

The BJP
leader’s remarks came after top Twitter officials, including its Chief
Executive Officer (CEO) Jack Dorsey, declined to appear before a parliamentary
committee on Monday citing “short notice” period.

The panel is
deliberating the issue of safeguarding citizens’ rights on social media
platforms.

Earlier in
the day, a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement said: “Given the short
notice of the hearing, we informed the committee that it would not be possible
for senior officials from Twitter to travel from the United States to appear on
Monday.”

The Twitter
officials were earlier asked to appear before the panel on February 11 for
alleged bias against “nationalist” accounts.

However,
Twitter’s letter has not gone down well with the panel members and is perceived
as “lack of seriousness”.

“We
have suggested that we work with the Lok Sabha Secretariat to find mutually
agreed dates for this meeting so that a senior Twitter official can
attend,” the Twitter spokesperson said.

“We
have also offered representatives from Twitter India to come and answer
questions on Monday. We await feedback from the government on these
matters,” said the statement.

The
parliamentary committee on information technology, headed by Thakur, had issued
summons to Twitter through a letter on February 1. It had said the head of the
organisation has to appear before the panel and may be accompanied by another
representative.

The
31-member parliamentary panel had also summoned representatives from the Ministry
of Electronics and Information Technology. The meeting will go ahead as
scheduled, sources said.

“We
want to reiterate that we not only have deep respect for India’s parliamentary
process and we are also committed to serving the people who use Twitter in the
Indian market,” the statement by the microblogging site added.

Twitter had
said on Friday it was proactively working with political parties to verify
candidates, elected officials and relevant party officials whose accounts will
be active in public conversation.

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