‘Act of treason’: Parliament panel slams Twitter on Leh map fiasco
The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) constituted to review the Data Protection Bill on Wednesday came down heavily upon representatives from Twitter for showing Leh as part of China, saying that it amounts to an act of treason.
According to those who attended the meeting, legal issues regarding data protection were raised and written submissions from both Amazon and Twitter will follow. The Committee has also taken into account instances of shadow-banning, taking down of accounts arbitrarily, lack of accountability and transparency when it comes to policies and data transfers and location of data centres.
The geo-tagging issue, however, said people familiar with the matter became a flashpoint at the meeting. The controversy came to the fore last week when a journalist started a live Twitter broadcast from a memorial in Leh and realised that the location said People’s Republic of China. It also prompted the secretary of the Ministry of Electronics and Information technology to write to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to express the government’s disapproval of the move.
“Leh being shown as a part of China can be construed as an act of treason and is punishable with unto seven years of imprisonment,” chair of the committee Meenakshi Lekhi told Hindustan Times. “The committee was unanimous in flagging the issue and expressed its stern disapproval.”
Twitter, however, said it swiftly resolved the issue. “The recent geo tagging issue was swiftly resolved by our teams. We are committed to openness, transparency around our work and will remain in regular touch with the government to share timely updates,” Twitter said in response to HT.
It added that data privacy and protection are at the core of its products.
“We thank the Parliamentary Committee for giving us an opportunity to share our views on the personal data protection bill. Privacy and data protection is at the core of our products and services that are designed to earn the trust of people who use them,” Twitter said. “Our focus is on working with governments across the world, including in India, to develop a forward-looking approach to regulation which is practical, realistic, feasible to implement, and takes into account the long-term impact on the wider digital ecosystem that protects the Open Internet and universal access.”
The committee was also particularly brutal when it came to the issue of taking down accounts. “Both Facebook and Twitter are social media giants, but who is auditing them,” said a member on condition of anonymity. “Where are their data centers located and how is the information transferred. These are all arbitrary decisions that are not regulated,” the member added.
Another member said that compliance with Indian law must be paramount and any company doing business with India must consider that. “Certain handles are blocked while others are not,” said the member. “Who decides these things.”
According to PTI, Lekhi also said that Twitter was becoming a “law unto itself”. ”Shadow banning, banning policy… there is no clarity about it. Such actions are very subjective... Twitter is becoming a law unto themselves and under these circumstances, they are violating Article 19 of the Constitution about the freedom of expression,” she said.
(With agency inputs)