‘Twitter denied access to my account for almost an hour’: IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Amid a public spat between Twitter India and the Government of India, Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said that he was denied access to his Twitter account for almost an hour on Friday.

Prasad wrote in a tweet that his account was blocked on the “alleged ground that there was a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the USA”. Prasad was subsequently allowed access to the account.

This latest run-in with the micro-blogging site comes in the backdrop of a months-long clash with the BJP-led Centre, from requests to take down tweets supporting the farmers’ agitation to a more recent spat over new IT rules.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) criminalises the production and dissemination of devices, services and/or technology, intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works. It can be invoked to flag the use of someone’s content being used without their consent.

The Union minister said that by blocking his account without prior notice, Twitter violated Rule 4(8) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

Currently, it’s unclear as to which post by Prasad led to his account being disabled. However, the IT minister claims that his 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.”

Prasad ended the tweet thread with a warning for Twitter, which read, “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.”

A little after 4 pm, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted to say he too faced a similar issue, with a tweet of his featuring a popular song being deleted because of a copyright claim.

Among a series of tweets, Tharoor mentioned the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology will be reaching out to Twitter India to seek clarity on why him and Prasad were locked out of their accounts, and on the rules and procedures it follow for its India operations.

Meanwhile, Aprameya Radhakrishna, CEO and co-founder at Koo issued a statement regarding this, saying, “Giving a user complete context of any claimed violation and an intimation of the exact violation is important. The user should also be able to contest or accept the claimed violation. A direct action of suspension without the above makes it seem like a social media platform is taking the final judgement call and is not being an intermediary.”