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India says US social media giants must obey its laws

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NEW DELHI, Jun 30 (Reuters) – India’s technology minister said Wednesday that US social media giants must obey the laws of his country where they do brisk business.

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s comments follow the allegations made by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Twitter Inc. (TWTR.N) violated rules that mandate the appointment of new compliance officers.

“You are doing business in India, you are making good money in India … but you are going to take the position that ‘I am only ruled by US laws’ … that is just not acceptable,” Prasad said during India Global Forum event 2021.

“You must be accountable to the Indian Constitution and Indian Laws.”

The minister also opposed a recent brief suspension of his account imposed by Twitter on a tweet he posted years ago for violating U.S. law, saying the platform would then have to obey Indian laws as well.

Industry representatives say India’s dispute with Twitter, coupled with dissatisfaction with the increasing regulatory scrutiny of other US digital giants such as Facebook’s WhatsApp and Amazon (AMZN.O), has acidified the business environment in a growth market.

WhatsApp has 530 million users while Facebook has 410 million in India – its largest market by users worldwide, while Twitter has 18 million users.

As the harshness of the Indian authorities grows, Twitter faces at least five police cases in different states. Failure to comply with the new rules raised suspicions that Twitter in India may no longer enjoy legal protection against user-posted content. Continue reading

On Wednesday, an Indian state challenged a ban on police action against Twitter’s country chief Manish Maheshwari in the Supreme Court after a lower court protected him from arrest on charges of using the platform to spread hatred.

Police in Uttar Pradesh, ruled by Modi’s party, issued a subpoena to Maheshwari earlier this month over a video they said has incited “hatred and hostility” between Hindu and Muslim communities. Continue reading

Twitter and the police in Uttar Pradesh declined to comment. Maheshwari didn’t answer.

When Maheshwari went to the lower court, he argued that the investigation concerned content on the Twitter platform operated by Twitter Inc., a company “incorporated under the laws of the United States of America,” according to one of them Court records viewed by Reuters not made public.

The Indian unit of Twitter played no role in the “operation and management of the said platform,” according to the filing.

The Uttar Pradesh case concerns the distribution of a video in which apparently Hindu men hit an elderly man believed to be Muslim and cut his beard.

Other cases arose from complaints that some politically sensitive regions were shown on a map on Twitter’s careers website as being outside of India, or that child pornography was visible on the platform.

Twitter has not commented on the card sleeves. On Tuesday it was said that there was a zero tolerance policy for the sexual exploitation of children.

Reporting by Sankalp Phartyal, Aditya Kalra and Abhirup Roy; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Giles Elgood

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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