Partha P Chakrabartty
14. February 2019 10:54:10 IST
The story of the call of the Indian Parliament to Twitter leads to a repetition of the saga it is. In a sea of confusing conflicts and issues, one thing is clear: nobody looks good. And this image problem ̵
How did the Standing Committee on IT Measures against Twitter start? Not with a social media-inspired lynch ; not because of ongoing box and gender abuse; Not to answer for the frightening allegations of polling companies like Cambridge Analytica or even to discuss the avalanche of counterfeit news. There were no hearings on these questions.
It began with a #ProtestAgainstTwitter launched by right-wing ideologues who had become excited about what was on the popular platform against them. They submitted a letter to Anurag Thakur, chairman of the Standing Committee. It was this letter that apparently triggered the charge.
In response, Twitter attempted to use the tricks that Internet giants used regularly in India to escape oversight. The trick was easy; Twitter's legal team claimed that its Indian officials had no decision-making power and were therefore not responsible for the platform's actions. For example, Google has used this in the past, claiming that its Indian office is just a "sales office". This is one of many dodgy legal tactics used by social media companies to avoid responsibility for much of the damage they cause, from the spread of counterfeit messages to bullying and harassment.
Unfortunately for Twitter, the tactic failed this time. There was too much political incentive to exploit the issue – to inspire right-wing extremist demonstrators, to show nationalistic strength, and to show the boss of the company to the company. Anurag Thakur and the Standing Committee used the legal statement as an excuse to call Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey himself.
What the parliamentary committee underestimated was the extraterritoriality of Twitter and all Internet companies. This past decade has shown the limits of national borders and security devices in the Internet. Eventually, the largest and most technologically advanced nation states, the United States, manipulated their elections through technology . It was therefore not surprising that Dorsey simply refused to appear before the committee, claiming that he had not received enough notice. What could India do to send a team to arrest him in San Francisco? We have problems, 19459003, to bring our own crazy citizens home!
The look of this rejection is terrible. The Standing Committee looks impotent. Dorsey appears disrespectful to the parliament of a key market. It remains to be seen what will happen on February 25th, the next date Dorsey travels to India.
In addition, the drama is spreading: Perhaps because the emergence of Twitter appears politically Vendetta, the standing committee is now expanding the drag chain and considering a lawsuit against Whatsapp, Facebook and Google . This means that Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg could next be on this list of invited people.
But what will all this political theater really achieve? Did our legislators not see the anodic deposition that Zuckerberg had delivered to the US Senate? What makes us believe that this will be different in the Indian Parliament? It's hard to imagine these actions as something other than a loud distraction from the real issues.
It would do us well for citizens to ignore the whole drama. Instead, we should keep an eye on a much more important topic – the design of a new internet bill . Some of its provisions deal directly with the problems that this problem poses. For example, companies with more than fifty lakh users must physically be present in the country and designate officials who can coordinate with the government. Without these rules, the Dorsey drama would not have taken place.
The bill also seeks to increase the accountability of Internet platforms for the misinformation they can disseminate. That sounds like a good thing until we see the text of the design. In the name of identifying criminals and limiting the distribution of harmful content, the law is threatening to give the Indian state China-like powers of surveillance and censorship. This includes the automated censorship of all-content algorithms that, in the government's view, threaten "public safety." It also allows unnamed government agencies to access private data, including our messages, without the need for a court order. If these powers are not limited and the text of the bill is changed, we open anyone who criticizes the government – and therefore takes into account the interests of citizens – for threats and coercion of the state.
Fortunately, we have an active civilian a society that brought to the IT Ministry several comments on the dangers that the bill represents, but as we have seen before with Aadhaar the ministry has no reason to observe these. It has the majority in the Lok Sabha. It has also invited comments to these comments. We need to remain vigilant and maintain the pressure to ensure that the problematic provisions are not passed.
The Parliamentary Information Technology Committee takes this very seriously.
We will take appropriate action on February 11th.
19659004] Citizens are cordially invited to send their concerns / problems by e-mail to the parliamentary committee.
email@example.com https://t.co/oKBzdoJkhV[19659004-AnuragThakur(@ianuragthakur) February 9, 2019
Equally, this bill is a real opportunity for Internet platforms – powerful and rich private companies – to make them more accountable to the citizens. Most of us do not love Trollmeys. We also do not want the Internet to become a haven for propaganda and counter-propaganda without taking the facts into account.
Thakur commented on his actions against Twitter. Let's flood his inbox with real concern instead of promoting this much-praised farce.
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