'Don't lecture India on freedom of speech, democracy': Ravi Shankar Prasad to social media firms

Express News Service
NEW DELHI: Union Minister for Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad cried foul saying social media giant Twitter denied him access to his account for around an hour on Friday. This was over complaints that he had violated copyright laws by posting his clippings from TV debates.

“Friends! Something highly peculiar happened today. Twitter denied access to my account for almost an hour on the alleged ground that there was a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of the US and subsequently they allowed me to access the account,” said Prasad in a tweet.

He attached a screenshot of the account when it was locked and Twitter’s message which read, “Your account has been locked because Twitter received a compliant Digital Millenium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) Notice for content posted to your Twitter account. Under the DMCA, copyright owners can notify Twitter claiming that a user has infringed their copyrighted works. Upon receipt of a valid DMCA notice, Twitter will remove the identified material. Twitter maintains a repeat copyright infringer policy under which repeat infringer accounts will be suspended. Accruing multiple DMCA strikes may lead to suspension of your account.”

He posted a subsequent screenshot where it said the account was ‘available for use’.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted saying it happened to him too and said a hyperactive DMCA might be to blame.

Raviji, the same thing just happened to me. Clearly DMCA is getting hyperactive. This tweet has been deleted by @Twitter because its video includes the copyrighted BoneyM song”Rasputin”: https://t.co/ClgP2OKV1o #DanceIsNotJihad pic.twitter.com/IqQD50WhaUAfter process, a/c unlocked. https://t.co/TCeT8aGxV6
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) June 25, 2021

It was something Twitter confirmed in a statement when The New Indian Express reached out to them. A Twitter spokesperson said, “We can confirm that the Honourable Minister’s account access was temporarily restricted due to a DMCA notice only and the referenced Tweet has been withheld. Per our copyright policy, we respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorised representatives.”

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Prasad posted a series of tweets in which he alleged Twitter’s actions were in ‘gross violation of Rule 4(8) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021’ where they failed to provide Prasad with any prior notice before denying him access to my own account.

“It is apparent that my statements calling out the high-handedness and arbitrary actions of Twitter, particularly sharing the clips of my interviews to TV channels and its powerful impact, have clearly ruffled its feathers,” he said in another tweet.

“Further, it is now apparent as to why Twitter is refusing to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines because if Twitter does comply, it would be unable to arbitrarily deny access to an individual’s account which does not suit their agenda,” he added.

“Furthermore, in the past several years, no television channel or any anchor has made any complaints about copyright infringements with regard to these news clips of my interviews shared on social media,” Prasad said.

He added that Twitter’s actions indicated that they were not the harbinger of free speech that they claim to be but were ‘only interested in running their own agenda, with the threat that if you do not tow the line they draw, they will arbitrarily remove you from their platform’.

“No matter what any platform does they will have to abide by the new IT Rules fully and there shall be no compromise on that,” he said in the last tweet.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the US criminalises production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalises the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself.

While the Act exempts online service providers exempts them from filtering out copyright infringement, the onus is on copyright holders to request removal of violations.

This places the burden on copyright holders to request the removal of violations.

The Centre and Twitter have been at loggerheads since the government notified the IT Rules in February, and over Twitter’s ‘non-compliance’ of rules.

Recently, Prasad had tweeted that Twitter failed to comply with the new IT Rules despite being given multiple opportunities. He had said that the ‘rule of law’ was bedrock of Indian society.