Twitter CEO and top officials have declined to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on IT that had summoned them over the issue of safeguarding citizens’ rights on social media platforms, sources in the panel said on Saturday. The Parliamentary Committee, headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur, had asked Twitter to appear before the panel and an official letter in this regard was sent to Twitter on February 1.
The BJP on Saturday warned Twitter of “repercussions” after the social network company’s CEO and top officials declined to appear before the Parliamentary Committee on information technology, saying no agency has the right to disrespect institutions of the country.
“In any country, no agency has the right to disrespect the institutions of that country. In this situation, if Twitter is disrespecting the established institution of Parliament, then there are repercussions,” BJP spokesperson and New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi said. “There are repercussions because in any democratic country, institutions need to be respected by the world powers. If there is any violation of any sort, then there are repercussions to those violations…The institutions need to be respected,” she said.
The Parliamentary Committee meeting was scheduled for February 7, but was later postponed to February 11 to allow the Twitter CEO and senior officials more time to make themselves available. Twitter cited “short notice of the hearing” as the reason, despite being given 10 days to travel, the sources said.
It may be recalled that when Google CEO Sundar Pichai refused to attend a US Senate hearing on September 5 last year and instead let an empty chair and a nameplate represent him, the gesture left many lawmakers fuming. Google instead sent a letter to the Senate Intelligent Committee on why the company was not to appear for a hearing on issues like foreign interference during elections on its platform. Pichai, however, did appear before a House Judiciary Committee in December and addressed several issues, including that the search giant’s algorithms are biased against conservative content.
The letter sent to Twitter by the Parliamentary IT Committee on February 1 clearly stated that “it may be noted that the Head of the Organisation has to appear before the Committee”. It further stated that “He/She may be accompanied by another representative.”
The Parliamentary IT Committee received a letter on February 7 from Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s global lead for legal, policy, trust and safety, stating, “No one who engages publicly for Twitter India makes enforcement decisions with respect to our rules for content or accounts in India.”
Deputing a junior employee to represent Twitter at the Indian Parliamentary IT Committee has not gone down well with Indian lawmakers especially since they have no decision making authority, the letter from Gadde said.
This comes at a time when there are growing concerns about safeguarding citizens’ data privacy and election interference through social media platforms.
Twitter’s conduct is being watched globally and their response is being seen with concern as India’s Parliamentary hearing is amongst the fourth in the world after the US Congress, Singapore and EU hearing.
Sunday, 10 February 2019 | PNS | New Delhi