Republic TV has accessed details of the dramatic escalation involving Twitter declining to answer summons issued to it by the Parliamentary Panel on IT over the allegations of bias that have been made against it.
As per Parliamentary panel sources, the summons was initially issued on February 7 and later rescheduled for February 11 in order to give Twitter - its CEO and top India officials - more time. However, despite the extension, Twitter is believed to have said that there was insufficient notice.
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. However, not just CEO Jack Dorsey who is based out of San Francisco but even the interim Twitter India head has refused to appear.
Declining to answer summons appears to have become something of a pattern with Twitter. The company had earlier declined to appear in the US and in Singapore. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had, on the other hand, appeared on being summoned by a US Select Committee, though he didn't appear on being summoned by the UK and Canadian Parliaments.
Twitter's defiance comes a day after Twitter India issued a statement stating that the San Francisco-headquartered platform is committed to remaining unbiased and that its product, as well as policies, are never based on political ideology. Here is the text of Twitter India's statement:
"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."
The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology, headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur, summoned Twitter India on February 11 to explain the allegations of bias that have been made against the social media platform. The Parliamentary Committee was to hear the views of representatives of the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and Twitter on the subject of 'Safeguarding citizens' right on social media and online news platforms.
The summoning came days after the members of 'Youth for Social Media Democracy' staged a protest outside the office of Twitter India in Delhi. The protesters alleged that Twitter India was biased against right-wing groups. Some of the protestors accused the microblogging website of spreading selective fake news. The protestors also claimed that the act of "selectively" authenticating Twitter handles of people with 'leftist propaganda' has often led to the spread of fake news around the digital platform.
The controversy also comes months after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey caused a storm by standing for a photo holding up a placard that read 'Smash Brahminical Patriarchy' during his visit to India.