Parliamentary panel asks Twitter for affidavit on geo-tagging glitch

An illustration picture shows the log-on icon for the Twitter website. File

An illustration picture shows the log-on icon for the Twitter website. File

The Joint Committee of Parliament on the Data Protection Bill sought an affidavit from Twitter Inc, the U.S.-based parent company of the social media platform, asking them to explain why it had shown Ladakh as a part of China, a senior member of the panel said on Wednesday.

The decision to seek an affidavit from the parent company was taken after the panel found the explanations offered by Twitter India representatives, who appeared before the Committee on Wednesday, to be “unsatisfactory and inadequate”.

Also read | Twitter-owned MoPub is leaking location data of over 10 million users, report says

Representatives of the e-commerce giant, Amazon, too appeared before the Committee on Wednesday, after the Parliamentary panel had mulled action against them last week for refusing to do so.

Appearing before the panel headed by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Meenakshi Lekhi, representatives of Twitter India “apologised” and claimed it to be a “mistake” as the app’s geo-tagging had suffered a technical glitch.

“The Committee was of the unanimous opinion that Twitter’s explanation on showing Ladakh as a part of China was inadequate,” Ms. Lekhi told PTI after the meeting.

Also read | India warns Twitter over map misrepresentation

She said Twitter representatives told the panel that the social media company “respects the sensitivities of India”.

“But it is not only a question of the sensitivity of India or Indians. It is a question about national integrity and sovereignty of the country, and not respecting that is a criminal offence. And displaying Indian map improperly and incorrectly is an offence of treason and attracts imprisonment of seven years,” Ms. Lekhi said.

The panel that questioned Twitter India’s executives for over two hours on the issue of Ladakh, also asked about its “banning policy”.

“Shadow banning, banning policy — there is no clarity about it. Such actions are very subjective... Twitter is becoming a law unto itself and, under these circumstances, they are violating Article 19 of the Constitution about the freedom of expression,” Ms. Lekhi said.

Some members also asked the social media company about its policy regarding fake news, paid news, its transparency policy, and the social media platform’s actions during elections, especially vis-a-vis their policies in other countries.

“The recent geo-tagging issue was swiftly resolved by our teams. We are committed to openness, transparency around our work and will remain in regular touch with the Government to share timely updates,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.

Twitter faced a backlash from social media users after its geo-tagging feature recently displayed “Jammu & Kashmir, the People’s Republic of China” in a live broadcast from a war memorial in Leh, Ladakh.

A senior member told The Hindu  that Twitter India was seen as a “marketing arm” of the parent company and, therefore, a written explanation has been sought from Twitter Inc. Some members noted that Twitter Asia, based in Singapore, mainly deals with advertisement revenues and takes all major decisions related to the region.

The Twitter India team that deposed before the panel included Shagufta Kamran, senior manager, public policy; Ayushi Kapoor, legal counsel; Pallavi Walia for policy communications, and Manvinder Bali, corporate security.

Officials from the Law Ministry as well as the Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology (MeitY) also appeared before the panel.

On October 22, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ajay Sawhney, had written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to respect the country’s sensitivities, and is learnt to have made it clear that “any disrespect to sovereignty and territorial integrity is unacceptable”.

Separately, the panel also questioned India officials of e-commerce giant Amazon, and Amazon web services on different aspects of data security, and is learnt to have asked for written submissions.

Last week, the panel mulled over action against the e-commerce giant after Amazon expressed its inability to depose before the panel, as “domain experts” were based in the U.S. and they could not travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next week, the Committee has summoned telecom operators Reliance Jio and Airtel, and cab aggregators Ola and Uber to depose before it on the issue of data security.

( With PTI inputs. )

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2022 12:26:17 am |