Twitter has responded exclusively to Republic TV's questionnaire following the newsbreak and ensuing controversy earlier on Saturday that it would decline the summons issued to it by the Parliamentary panel on IT, scheduled for February 11.
The following is the statement issued to Republic by a Twitter spokesperson reproduced in full:
"We appreciate and respect the Committee’s focus on the issues of user safety and user rights. We understand the Committee’s interest in these issues and the importance of hearing from multiple stakeholders regarding the implications for users of social media in India. We have indicated that we are willing to participate in such a broad hearing process
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. Our CEO, Jack Dorsey, and other senior Twitter executives visited India in recent weeks because it is an important market for Twitter and we value the growing interest in Twitter in India.
We have suggested that we work with the Lok Sabha Secretariat to find mutually agreeable dates for this meeting so that a senior Twitter official can attend. We have also offered representatives from Twitter India to come and answer questions on Monday. We await feedback from the government on both of these matters.
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."
Earlier in the day, Republic had broken news that Twitter had declined to appear as summoned by the Parliamentary panel on IT over the allegations of bias that have been made against it.
The summons had initially been issued for February 7 and then extended till February 11 in order to give Twitter - its CEO and top India officials - more time.
Sources confirmed that the Parliamentary IT Committee received a letter on February 7 from Twitter's global lead for Legal, Policy, Trust & Safety stating that "No one who engages publicly for Twitter India makes enforcement decisions with respect to our rules for content or accounts in India."
Even before the February 11 extension, ten additional days had given to the microblogging platform, sources added, to facilitate travel for the relevant officials.
On Friday, Twitter India issued a statement stating that it is committed to remaining unbiased and that its product:
"There has been a lot of discussion about Twitter and political partisanship in India in recent weeks and we would like to take a moment to set the record straight.
Twitter is a service where voices from across the spectrum can be seen and heard. We are committed to the principles of openness, transparency, and impartiality.
Whether it’s trends, the content that appears in your timeline, or how we enforce our policies, we believe in impartiality and do not make decisions on the basis of political views or beliefs.
We have a specialized, global team that enforces the Twitter Rules. Twitter India employees do not make enforcement decisions. This is by design to ensure fairness and impartiality.
India is the world’s largest democracy, and one of our largest and fastest-growing audience markets globally. We have never been more passionate about our mission to serve our Indian customers, and to protect and enhance the national conversation during this election season."
However, Twitter declining to appear before the Parliamentary panel hasn't gone down well with Anurag Thakur, the head of the panel that summoned it. He has tweeted the following: