NEW DELHI: Members of the joint committee of Parliament on the data privacy bill strongly disputed social media giant Twitter’s bid to distinguish itself as a “platform” rather than a “publisher” which would enable the firm to evade responsibility for content posted on its site.
At Thursday’s discussions of the panel, members told Twitter representatives that there was a need for accountability for content posted by various handles and which could be transmitted and replicated several times over. Senior BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, who runs a newspaper, said he had been a journalist for several years and knew he could be held to account for anything published in the newspaper.
The panel was also surprised to learn that Twitter had paid just Rs 33 lakh by way of taxes in a particular financial year. Given the firm’s scale of operations in India, its expenditure would itself be a considerable amount.
The hair splitting over “platform” as against “publisher”, committee sources said, was a key aspect of the panel’s deliberations over social media and allied platforms. In many ways, the content is news taken from various publications and replicated without any consent of the original news generator. Then, there is other unverified content that can have serious implications for law and order or social harmony.
The deliberations held so far have convinced many panel members that policies and functioning of social media outlets leave much to be desired. At times, Twitter representatives said content would not be removed unless by court order but there was no clarity about how certain posts were removed by the firm itself.
Similarly, Twitter’s policies on cooperating with law enforcement do not always reflect a consistent pattern.