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Informed Union Minister Before Locking Account: Twitter To Indian Parliamentary Panel

Twitter is in a tussle with the Indian government over its non-compliance with the country's new IT Rules. 

NEW DELHI — Microblogging site Twitter told India’s Parliamentary panel for Information Technology that it informed former Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad before temporarily blocking his account under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). 

“When we remove or disable access to the materials reported in a copyright complaint, the reported user(s) will receive a copy of the complaint, including the reporter’s full name, email, street address, and any other information included in the complaint,” Twitter told the panel. 

“The user will also get the detailed information regarding filing a counter-notice.”

On June 25, Twitter temporarily suspended Prasad’s account, citing copyright violations, only to apologize and restore it later. 

Politician Shashi Tharoor, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, had sought a written explanation from Twitter for locking Prasad’s account. 

“As per our copyright policy, Twitter responds to copyright complaints submitted under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA),” Twitter said in its reply. 

“Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act outlines, in the case of Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Law & Justice, Communications and Electronics and Information Technology as well Shashi Tharoor, Chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology, Twitter received Digital Millennium Copyright Act notices from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) alleging that video Tweets posted on their accounts infringed copyrighted works owned by Sony Music Entertainment.”

Twitter said it blocked Prasad’s account due to its copyright policy. 

“Upon receipt of the notice, Twitter complied with its copyright policy, disabled access to the allegedly infringing videos, and temporarily locked the accounts,” Twitter said. 

“When the account holders acknowledged their understanding of our copyright policy, the accounts were immediately unlocked. Twitter sent by email a full copy of the DMCA notices to the account holders.”

The parliamentary panel also asked the company to clarify its standard operating procedure for blocking Twitter accounts and if those protocols were followed in this case.

“Under appropriate circumstances, we may suspend user accounts under our repeat infringer policy,” the social media platform said. 

“However, we may take retractions and counter-notices into account when applying our repeat infringer policy. We do not withhold content in response to Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices that are incomplete, do not concern copyright issues, or that we determine to be fraudulent,” the company said in its reply.

The microblogging site said that it received 15 percent more Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices affecting 87 percent more accounts during the period of Jan-June 2020. 

“Importantly, our account holders via our terms of service, agree that for any content that they submit, post, or display on our service, they represent or warrant that they have, or have obtained all rights, licenses, consents, permissions, power and/or authority necessary to grant the rights granted,” the U.S. firm said.

 “The account holders also agree that such content will not contain material subject to copyright or other proprietary rights unless they have necessary permission or are otherwise legally entitled to post the material and to grant Twitter the license described above.”

Twitter has been at loggerheads with the Indian government over its non-compliance with the country’s new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. 

“There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbor provision. However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May,” Prasad tweeted on June 16.  

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan and Praveen Pramod Tewari)

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