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Facebook, Twitter to depose to Parliamentary IT Committee on Jan 21

The Standing Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology, headed by Congress politician Shashi Tharoor, has called on representatives of Facebook, Twitter, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) on January 21.

The Committee’s agenda says it will seek evidence from all three on the subject of: “Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space”. The meeting will begin at 4 pm on Thursday, January 21. The agenda notice was released by the Parliament on January 14. A day after this meeting, on January 22, the Committee will also consider and adopt the draft report on India’s 5G preparedness.

According to the Committee’s list of sittings, it met on January 12, when MEITY officials briefed the Committee on the review and functioning of the UIDAI. According to the Lok Sabha website, this meeting was attended by 13 Committee members, including Congress’s Tharoor and Karti Chidambaram, TMC’s Mahua Moitra, and the BJP’s Tejasvi Surya, among others.

On January 13, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting had briefed the Committee on a review of the functioning of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), better known as the Censor Board. This meeting was also attended by 13 members, including Tharoor, Moitra, Chidambadaram, Surya, as well as the BJP’s Nishikant Dubey and Sanjay Seth, among others.

Surya wants intermediaries regulation reviewed

Earlier this month, BJP’s Tejasvi Surya batted for reviewing how internet intermediaries are regulated. He said Twitter’s move to permanently ban outgoing US President Donald Trump is a wake-up call to the threat to democracies posed by “unregulated big tech companies”. “If they can do this to POTUS, they can do this to anyone, ” Surya said. “Sooner India reviews intermediaries regulations, better for our democracy,” the Bangalore South MP added. Surya explained is subsequent tweets that freedom of speech was “sacrosanct”, and that Twitter should not ban anyone, irrespective of their political affiliation.

In September 2020, Surya had urged the government to repeal the safe harbour protections, declaring them “unconstitutional”. He called for new rules to protect fundamental rights, “especially those of the nationalistic approach”.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi had said in October 2020 that safe harbour protections “cannot be accepted anymore”, and called for an overhaul of the existing legal framework. She had written a letter to IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad after it was reported that more than 80,000 fake social media accounts had been created to “malign” the Maharashtra state government.

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