The battle between the Indian government and Twitter moved gears quickly on Friday when Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the microblogging platform had temporarily locked him out of his personal account for allegedly violating the USA’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA.
According to screenshots shared by Prasad, Twitter sent Prasad a notification saying that his account was locked because the platform had received a DMCA notice for the content shared on his account.
In his tweet, Prasad said that Twitter’s actions were in “gross violation” of Rule 4(8) of the new social media rules. This particular provision says that when an intermediary such as Twitter disables access to a communication link on its platform, it has to give prior notification to the user explaining the grounds for taking such an action.
“It is apparent that my statements calling out the high handedness and arbitrary actions of Twitter, particularly sharing the clips of my interviews to TV channels and its powerful impact, have clearly ruffled its feathers,” Prasad said.
“Furthermore, in the past several years, no television channel or any anchor has made any complaints about copyright infringements with regard to these news clips of my interviews shared on social media,” he added.
In a strongly worded tweet, Prasad added that Twitter’s actions indicate that they are “not the harbinger of free speech” and are “only interested in running their own agenda”. “If you do not tow the line they draw, they will arbitrarily remove you from their platform,” he said.
“We can confirm that the Honourable Minister’s account access was temporarily restricted due to a DMCA notice only and the referenced Tweet has been withheld. Per our copyright policy, we respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorized representatives,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.
The tweet in question was from 2017.
While in its statement Twitter did not reveal the identity of the entity that had submitted the DMCA copyright violation against Ravi Shankar Prasad’s tweet, in its submission to the Lumen database, the company revealed that it was the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry that had submitted the notice to Twitter on behalf of Sony Music Entertainment. The video clip Prasad had shared in his tweet contained a song composed by AR Rahman. Moneycontrol first reported this.
According to Twitter’s copyright policy, the company responds to copyright complaints submitted under the DMCA and if multiple copyright complaints are received against an account, the platform may lock it.
In response to Prasad’s tweets, Congress leader and chairperson of the Parliamentary IT committee Shashi Tharoor said that the same thing had happened to his account. However, he said that he wouldn’t blame Twitter for it as Prasad was doing since the company was had “no choice but to honour a DMCA takedown notice, however stupid [and] pointless the request was”.
Tharoor also said that Prasad was pointing to the fact that Twitter was conforming to US laws while possibly violating India’s laws. He added that the IT Committee will seek an explanation from Twitter about locking his and Prasad’s accounts and the rules they follow while operating in India.
In November last year, Twitter had temporarily removed the profile picture of Home Minister Amit Shah citing copyright violations.
Update: The story was updated with additional information about the sender of the DMCA notice