Union minister charges Twitter of abusing and misusing power, de-amplyfying voices and de-platforming many people during 2020.
The virtual realm has become a battleground of fierce discourse and intense debate following the recent bombshell dropped by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. His allegations of the Indian government's exertion of pressure during the farmers' protest have triggered a firestorm on social media platforms.
In an exclusive interview with YouTube channel Breaking Point on 12 June, Dorsey disclosed anecdotes about the intense pressure faced by the company and himself.
Citing India as the first example, Dorsey claimed: “India is a country that had many requests around the farmers’ protest, around particular journalists that were critical of the government. It manifested in ways such as, ‘We will shut Twitter down in India’ - which is a very large market for us, ‘We will raid the homes of your employees’ – which they did, ‘We will shut down your offices’ – if you don’t follow suit. And this is India, a democratic country". Dorsey said that apart from India, the platform faced similar experiences from Turkey, Nigeria and the United States.
The social media landscape has been engulfed in a tempestuous storm following Dorsey's statements. While former beaurocrats, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, Congress MP from Rajya Sabha Randeep Singh Surjewala, woman leader Supriya Srinate have expressed support for Dorsey's assertions, Union Minister Rajiv Chandrashekhar has vehemently countered the allegations.
Prominent farmer leader Rakesh Tikait has lent his support to Jack Dorsey's allegations, acknowledging the purported attempts to curtail social media reach during the farmers' protest. Tikait suggests that the anticipated reach and visibility of the protest on platforms like Facebook and Twitter fell short of expectations, indicating potential efforts to suppress information at a certain level.
According to Tikait, the former Twitter CEO's statements have shed light on the actions taken to limit the influence and impact of the protest.
Rajya Sabha MP Randeep Singh Surjewala has expressed support for Jack Dorsey's assertions, leveraging the opportunity to target the ruling government.
The Congress Seva Dal posted a tweet from its official handle claiming "That is how Narendra Modi Government trampled the democracy in India."
Supriya Srinate addressed a press conference on Tuesday morning and said that "it is a murder of democracy in India which is referred to as the mother of democracy". Terming Narendra Modi as a 'Coward Dictator' Supriya said that while the farmers protested braving extreme weather conditions of summer, winter, hailstorm and rain, the BJP regime was doing all it could to suppress their voices. She also said that the BJP IT cell on May 24, 2021 accused Congress to have been using a toolkit to spread misinformation but Dorsey's interview has exposed the BJP and proved that it's IT cell is a 'fake news factory'.
Amid the opposition attacks corroborating Dorsey's statments, Union Minister Rajiv Chandrashekhar has categorically refuted the former Twitter CEO's claims, asserting that Twitter, under Dorsey's leadership, repeatedly violated Indian law. Chandrashekhar highlights that Twitter's non-compliance with Indian regulations persisted from 2020 to 2022. The minister emphasizes that the government's actions were solely aimed at ensuring compliance with Indian laws and maintaining the sovereignty of the nation.
"Indian laws have clear provisions related to weaponising of misinformation which is what the Twitter did during the entire period of 2020 when they weaponised misinformation about Indians and the Government of India. It is violation of article 14 and 19 of the constitution. We have always maintained that the Indian Government's objective is to ensure that the internet is a safe and trusted place and hence what Dorsey said is all lies" the minister said.
As the social media storm rages on, the clash of perspectives highlights the complex dynamics between technology platforms, governments, and the freedom of expression in the digital age.