At the start of social media
When social media first came into being through big tech companies: Google, Microsoft, Facebook-its messaging affiliate- WhatsApp, YouTube, Apple, Amazon, Twitter etc., from the Silicon Valley, U.S.,that was really a revolutionary change in the way of communication. They gave voice to all sections of people, especially the ones deprived of and voiceless earlier. People thought these platforms were democratic for giving representation to all, to say, what they think/feel/wish to openly. They (the platforms) have given unhindered and unfettered freedom to people. In fact, their role to provide a platform for sharing and venting ideas, is that of a facilitator/intermediary. The Government has provided a safe harbour status to them, so as to get immunity from any legal liabilities for the content provided (by the user). But slowly, there was a drift in the way they functioned. The messages and narratives on social media have become too political and too acrimonious. In the case of Twitter Inc, it has become an issue that caught the nation’s attention.
What is Twitter all about?
Twitter is a microblogging platform. In regular Blogs most of the Bloggers combine journalism and their personal dairies. In the case of “micro” blogs i.e.; microblogging sites of Twitter-kind, users express their condensed -thought in a few bytes (with a fifty or so – word limit). However, the message is effective. And in an instant, it serves the purpose. Hence, politicians of all hues, all over the world, tweet their opinion regarding all issues on Twitter. The Governments of many big democracies put up their official policies on Twitter for people to know. During this pandemic-Covid-19, Twitter earned prominence as many SOS- messages for medicines, oxygen-supply, hospital beds availability etc., had been shared and circulated through this platform. Of course, other platforms were also made avail of in due course.
Twitter Inc thinks it is an autonomous organisation with no-hold-barred powers. The depiction of Ladakh in China and J&K in Pakistan etc., in the map of Twitter official handle, in itself is a grave violation, though corrected later, after pointing out repeatedly. This behaviour of Twitter indicates that it has a scant regard for India, as a nation, and treats India as a third-world country of least importance. As a matter of fact, these social media platforms are not doing any free-service out of enlightened self-interest. They are doing a big business in India. It is okay, even if they do business but they seem to meddle and muddle Indian politics. That apart, there is a lot of misinformation/disinformation campaign and Fake news-spread through these platforms harming the country.
During the anti-CAA protest, anti-Farm Laws agitation, on law-and-order front in Kashmir Valley after Art-370 abrogation—these social media platforms, especially Facebook, Instagram and Twitter’s postings potentially caused outrage and intensified stirs. These corporations never act as muted intermediary-bystanders but act as front- line agitators to support certain causes that go against the Government. In particular, Twitter took to liberal-activist- stand and went against the GOI.
During the protests, Twitter amplified the celebrity tweets that went against the government line, facilitating online activism that had huge ramifications in the world bodies. In fact, many liberal activists, all over the world, seek the help of these big-tech corporations in expressing their opinion, as they cannot impress upon the government of the day. The kind of control these big corporate-platforms wield over political mobilisation, many consider, as a threat to democracies.
The Tussle Between Twitter and Govt of India
Twitter Inc’s battle with the Government of India reached an epic proportion. The ‘rules and regulations’ (served by GOI) to be followed in India by the social media platforms/intermediaries were accepted by almost all: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, YouTube etc., except Twitter. To appoint a resident Chief Compliance Officer, Grievance officer and Nodal officer, Twitter is making inordinate delay and giving pretexts, whereas other platforms complied with. In the parliamentary committee meeting, all political parties unanimously warned Twitter officials for the non-compliance with the rules of the land. Twitter’s reply that it has its own policies, angered them.
Under the new IT rules, large digital platforms that have over five million users are required to publish periodic compliance reports every month, mentioning the details of the complaints received and action taken thereon. Following the rules Google, Facebook, Instagram already published in this month, that in itself is a big step. But Twitter has not. So, there is pressure on Twitter to follow suit in order to work in India. Eventually, it will, because Twitter Inc cannot leave its big business interests in India.