By: Sushil Kutty
Donald Trump’s friend Narendra Modi is punishing Twitter. Punishing it in a manner befitting action taken by Twitter against POTUS Trump after Capitol Hill. You cannot be one thing with regard to the United States’ house of Congress and another thing when it comes to the Red Fort, Union Minister for Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad told Twitter. If police action at Capitol Hill was right and proper, then police action at Red Fort should also get the same right certificate.
Twitter hasn’t reacted so far. It’s playing hard to catch, but a little bird says Twitter is kind of mad that the Government of India isn’t as compliant as was the Department of Justice in the Trump Administration. Twitter openly, brazenly, unequivocally, disciplined POTUS Donald Trump after Capitol Hill and one wondered then who was commander-in-chief – Jack Dorsey or Donald Trump?
In fact, if ‘Manu’ of the Manusmriti fame was around, Twitter would have promptly and permanently suspended him a la in the same manner it had Donald Trump. Then again, Twitter and Dorsey are not ideologically bent to give a friendly hug to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Dorsey and Modi are not on the same page. They don’t think alike. It’s also difficult to pinpoint as to who of the two profited more from the unlikely association, Modi or Dorsey?
Guess what, maybe both of them got their pound of flesh each though Modi is a confirmed vegetarian and Jack Dorsey must in all probability like to dig his canine into chicken tikka masala. Like IT Minister Shankar Prasad said in the RajyaSabha, Twitter and Facebook and Whatsapp, Linkedin are all free to make their money in the Republic of India but not at the expense of India’s laws. And India’s ruling party of the present.
Seems like this did not go down well with Twitter, which – it seems – is a bigger champion of free speech than the Government of India and wouldn’t and doesn’t like the free speech of communist party leaders and journalists and media organisations curtailed by the Government of India, not if Twitter can help it. So, it is “we refuse to obey your diktat” because that diktat is not in line with the “law in/of India” and Twitter knows the Indian law better than any Indian in India does.
In short, the micro-blogging site doesn’t like being ordered around. It’s made of sterner stuff. It has refused to be cowed down by the ‘cow-party.’ And the Modi Government has taken this Twitter attitude as grave provocation, crime akin to grand larceny, even worse. India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has warned Twitter of tough action ahead if it thought/believed Twitter can dictate to India Indian law!
There are reports that Twitter’s India staff could be picked up and taken into custody. This after the micro-blogging platform blogged once too often. Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad cautioned Twitter and said there could be arrests if Twitter continued to “spread fake news and fuel violence.” And if Trump is following Twitter without being on Twitter and because he has been thrown out of Twitter he would have been thrilled to hear Prasad say that “Twitter’s double-standards” would not be allowed in India.
Prasad is convinced Twitter is plotting his government’s downfall; and that the farmers’ agitation is being planned from overseas, and Big Tech has a dubious role. “Be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WhatsApp, action will be taken if these platforms are misused,” he said. “Work in India. You have crores of followers here. We respect that. Make money but you will have to abide by Indian laws and the Constitution.”
Chances are the battle between Twitter and the Modi dispensation will get uglier than prettier in the days to come, and there could be drastic action from the government’s side. That’s why all the “Koo” experience is being cited time and time again by the Government of India, from inside Parliament and from outside Parliament, with television channels weighing in with their bits of wisdom. ‘Koo’ is being actively sold by Modi’s ministers and the so-called government-friendly “godi media.”
In fact, Republic TV editor-in-chief sole owner Arnab Goswami is in the thick of ‘Koo’ and if there’s the stench of ‘conflict of interest’ enveloping his whole Koo experience it’s because he never forgets to allude in his nightly shows that Republic TV is part of the “Koo enterprise” and that he and the two entrepreneurs who launched Koo will make Koo a global brand to rival with and maybe even beat Twitter to second place.
To the discerning and the worldly-wise and the street-smart and from the behaviour of the Government of India and that of the ‘godi media’ as also that of Twitter, it looks like the Modi Government has woken up to the “threat” and “danger” from Twitter and it does not want to go the Trump way. So the belligerence and tough exchanges between the two sides, Twitter and the Modi Government. The government patronage to Koo is too glaring to be taken lightly. Twitter probably knows what’s coming and, therefore, doesn’t care.
Also, it’s rather telling that Prasad took a question on social media being used to interfere with the election process. Now why would he do that unless the BJP and the Government fears that Big Tech must not be good for the BJP! “We respect the election process of India. If social media platforms are misused to tamper with the election process, our election commission and the government will take stern action,” Prasad warned. “The ministry of information and broadcasting has a cell to bust fake news. I would urge social media platforms to measure this unbridled exposure on your internal guidelines and take actions. You are showing revenge sex videos, porn videos in an unbridled manner.” Is the Modi Government afraid of going the Trump way preparing the grounds to show Twitter the door? (IPA Service)