In a strongly worded statement, Union Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday asserted that if social media giants wanted to continue their operations in India and make profit, then they will have to follow the "Indian Constitution and Indian laws".
Prasad further asked social media giants not to lecture India on "freedom of speech" and "democracy" while asserting that the Centre’s new IT rules aim to put an end to the "abuse" and "misuse" of social media platforms.
His remarks come in the backdrop of a tussle between the Centre and a few social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp over the Centre’s new IT rules. While WhatsApp challenged the Centre’s new rules in court over privacy issues, Twitter was pulled up by the Centre for not appointing a compliance officer, following which the microblogging site appointed an interim chief compliance officer.
While addressing a lecture on the topic 'Social Media & Social Security' and 'Criminal Justice System Reforms: An Unfinished Agenda' organized by Symbiosis International University as part of the Symbiosis Golden Jubilee Lecture Series, Prasad on Saturday said, the new IT rules, which were originally announced in February, give users of the platform a forum for redressal for their grievances.
"The new rules require social media companies to set up an India-based grievance redressal officer, compliance officer, and the nodal officer so that millions of social media users get a forum for grievance redressal," Prasad said, adding that no one was "asking for the moon" by getting firms to appoint three officers based in the country for this purpose.
"These are basic requirements. Let me reiterate emphatically that India does not need a lecture on freedom of speech and democracy from a profit-making company that stays in America. India has free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, media, civil society. Here I am talking to students and taking questions, and this is true democracy. So these profit-making companies should not lecture us on democracy," he said.
"When Indian companies go to do business in America, do they not follow American laws? You earn good money, good profits as India is a digital market, there is no problem. Criticize the prime minister, criticize me, ask tough questions, but why would you not obey Indian laws? If you want to do business in India, you have to follow India's Constitution and India's laws," the minister, who also holds the law and justice portfolio, emphasised.
Prasad said these firms got three months to comply with the new IT rules, the period expiring on May 26.
"I said I will give them extra time by a way of goodwill gesture. They did not comply. Therefore, it was exhausted because of the consequences of the law and not because of me. Now, what will happen? They will have to respond to court proceedings, investigative proceedings," Prasad said.
The Central government recently withdrew Twitter's 'intermediary platform' status due to non-compliance with new IT rules.
(With PTI inputs)
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine