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'No compromise' : Parl panel disallows Twitter executive to appear before it

'No compromise' : Parl panel disallows Twitter executive to appear before it

Nirendra Dev

New Delhi, Feb 11 (UNI) The row between Twitter executives and a section of the BJP hardliner MPs apparently intensified on Monday after a senior executive from the micro blogging site was disallowed to depose before a parliamentary panel.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur as chairman during their sitting declined to allow a senior Twitter executive Director, Policy for South Asia Mahima Kaul to depose before the 31-member panel.

The move is largely seen as a major step by the lawmakers to track on the functioning of the popular micro blogging site Twitter and the authorities of the Indian Parliament.

The Standing Committee's focus is largely on the issue of 'user safety' on the internet, sources said.

"Twitter has sought to insult Indian parliament by deputing a junior executive and so she was not allowed to depose before the panel," a senior lawmaker and member of the Committee told UNI here.

He said detailed discussions were held among the members and there was a general consensus that after a fortnight or so, "responsible and top Twitter boss who can take decisions on content of what goes on the micro blogging site will be called again".

"A fresh notice will be issued," the source said adding - "the matter is very serious and the tendency to take things for granted will not be entertained at all".

Now, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey may be asked to appear the committee on or before February 25-26.

The panel has among others - Prasun Banerjee (Trinamool), Hema Malini, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, LK Advani, Paresh Rawal and Virender Kashyap (all BJP), P Karunakaran (CPI-M), Raj Babbar (Congress) and KG Kenye (NPF) as members.

The source said at the meeting members from various parties have raised the issue of 'propriety' against Twitter and said by indulging in the role of "editing the content and deciding on who will be followers and so on, Twitter has started functioning like a media house".

"It is no longer a technology enabler platform and hence rules applied to media houses especially in the context of FDI may apply to them," another member said later.

Twitter executives have provoked angry reactions in last few days from lawmakers and especially a section of BJP was not happy over the fact that the popular micro blogging site has reportedly encouraged left leaning and anti-government tweets in recent past.

Ventilating his anguish at the conduct of Twitter, Mr Thakur had tweeted saying - "The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology takes very serious note of this. We will take appropriate action on 11th February."

He also invited citizens to send or convey their concerns and issues via email to the 31-member Parliamentary Committee.

In Monday's deliberations, BJP MP from Gujarat Paresh Rawal was reportedly quite vocal. Among others senior parliamentarian LK Advani also spoke on the issue and so did BJP's Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe.

Another BJP MP and chairperson of Lok Sabha Privilege Committee Meenakshi Lekhai also said that the micro blogging site can face 'repercussions' for their conduct.

In fact, Indian Parliament is the fourth legislature globally after Singapore, European Union and the US Congress to probe into the issue of abuse of political content and conduct of the popular and globally acclaimed micro blogging site.

Displeased at its perceived pro-Democrat stance, US President Donald Trump had recently slammed Twitter for "shadow banning" Republicans.

BJP lawmaker and former Law Minister Dr Subramanian Swamy has on Saturday that the Twitter declining to come before the parliamentary committee is a "very serious matter".

The Monday's meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee was convened to enlist "views of the representatives" of the Union Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and Twitter on the subject.

"The Ministry officials would be appearing again before the Committee with detail response on the queries from the members," sources said.

Monday's deliberations would be important as Twitter had earlier provoked members and chairman of the Parliamentary panel Mr Thakur by stating that its global CEO Jack Dorsey cannot come due to paucity of time between the date of summoning and the date of hearing.

Sources said the stance taken by Twitter top brass is 'surprising' as the notice was issued on February 1 and in view of the request from Twitter - the February 7 meeting of the panel was deferred to February 11 to allow the Twitter CEO or senior officials more time.


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