In Twitter vs Centre, Minister's Account Was Locked Over AR Rahman Song

Twitter vs Government: Ravi Shankar Prasad said he was locked out of his Twitter account for about an hour because the social network said he had violated US copyright law.

New IT Rules: Ravi Shankar Prasad said Twitter had violated Indian laws by not giving him advance notice.

Highlights

  • Twitter denied Ravi Shankar Prasad access to his account for an hour
  • It blocked the account over complaints that he violated copyright law
  • The complaint later emerged to have stemmed from a claim by a music label
New Delhi:

Union Minister for Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday said Twitter denied him access to his account for almost an hour over complaints that he violated copyright law that later emerged to have stemmed from a claim by a music label.

"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 of the USA and subsequently they allowed me to access the account," Mr Prasad said in a series of tweets.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed the incident, saying, "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 authorized representatives.”

A filing by the company on a transparency database revealed that Mr Prasad's account faced the action because of a copyright claim by Sony Music Entertainment for a clip that apparently used musician A R Rahman's song 'Maa Tujhe Salaam'.

The minister, however, linked the action to the platform's months-long clash with the BJP-led government at the centre over issues ranging from requests to take down tweets supporting the farmers' protest, discrediting posts by leaders of the BJP and more recently new regulation.

The new rules for social networking websites – which include appointing India-based compliance executives and other conditions – have led to a protracted feud, raising concerns that Twitter may no longer enjoy protection against user-generated content.

"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," Mr Prasad added.

"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," Mr Prasad wrote.

"Twitter's actions indicate that they are not the harbinger of free speech that they claim to be but are 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," the minister said.

"The issue that further needs to be deliberated in this context, is whether India shall be guided by the copyright laws of the USA or its own copyright laws? Can a multinational platform like Twitter which proclaims itself as the flag bearer of free speech invoke the American laws in India to curtain free speech of a senior minister of Government of India?" Mr Prasad said.

"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 added.

Soon after Mr Prasad's outburst, several Twitter users including senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, said they too had faced similar action.

Mr Tharoor also said that his parliamentary committee will seek an explanation from Twitter for blocking Mr Prasad and his account.