Amid Centre's ongoing face-off with Twitter, Union Minister for Electronics, IT, and Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday praised its India-made analogue 'Koo' in the Rajya Sabha. This is the second day in a row that the ministry has championed Koo over Twitter.
"Koo is a made-in-India app that has become a toast for success today and we should be proud of it. It is a matter of pride for me that Indians are heading so many multi-technology companies. Let us salute the extraordinary courage of our start-ups," Prasad said during the Question Hour.
The Union Minister further issued a stern warning against social media platforms allowing the spread of 'hateful' content and said that their "double standard" will not be allowed in India. Lashing out at the double standards of the social media companies, Prasad said, when the US Capitol Hill was attacked by pro-Trump protestors, Twitter and Facebook supported the investigation, but when the Red Fort was breached in New Delhi, the social media platforms have stood against the Indian government.
"We have now flagged Twitter. Our department has engaged with the company. When there is violence in US Capitol Hill, social media platforms encourage police investigation but when Red Fort is breached, the same platforms go against the government of India.
The Red Fort is the symbol of our pride. We won't allow this double standard in the country. What is this? You are trending genocide?" the minister said in Parliament.
Ravi Shankar Prasad said that these companies can work in India and make money but they will have to abide by its laws and the Constitution. "The micro-blogging companies better note this, the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech but it is subject to reasonable restriction because of the sovereignty of India," he fumed.
"We respect social media a lot. it has empowered common people. Social media has a big role in the Digital India program. However, if social media is misused to spread fake news, violence then action will be taken," the minister said.
Ravi Shankar Prasad's warning to social media companies comes just a day after the Centre pulled up Twitter over the delay on obeying its order to remove tweets and hashtags related to 'farmer genocide' and Khalistan sympathizers. s. Expressing strong displeasure at the fact that the company allowed the content with the hashtag referring to 'farmer genocide' to continue despite the Centre's issuance of an emergency order, he conveyed that Twitter had chosen to side with people seeking to provoke disturbance to public order. Moreover, he called upon Twitter to take strong action against well-coordinated campaigns against India on its platform as elaborated in the toolkit shared by environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
In a blog post earlier in the day, Twitter had revealed that it had suspended more than 500 accounts that were engaging in platform manipulation and spam from January 26 onwards. While acknowledging that it had received multiple blocking orders from the MeitY in the last 10 days under Section 69A of the IT Act, it admitted to only taking partial action.
Justifying its decision to not block certain accounts, it wrote, "Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law. We informed MeitY of our enforcement actions today, February 10, 2021. We will continue to maintain a dialogue with the Indian government and respectfully engage with them."
Subsequent to this, the Ministry expressed how the blog post was 'unusual', and in a move that had greater symbolic meaning than even its content, used its account on Koo to post the update. Koo has witnessed a huge spike in usership over the last few weeks with many prominent celebrities now signing up.