NEW DELHI: Internet Freedom Foundation, an NGO that does advocacy on digital rights and liberties, has accessed two letters through the Right to Information (RTI) Act. These were issued by the Ministry of Information and Technology (MeitY) to Twitter in May. The group says the ministry went beyond its statutory powers in asking Twitter to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tags from tweets on an alleged ‘toolkit’ without any legal basis.
The group filed two RTI applications before the Department of Electronics and Information Technology at MeitY on May 21 and June 2 on whether any governmental authorities had been in contact with Twitter for tweets related to the alleged Congress toolkit, and whether any governmental authorities had issued any direction to Twitter to remove the manipulated media tags related to the Toolkit. It asked what was the provision of law under which directions to remove tags were issued. It also requested for copies of communication(s) sent to Twitter.
The RTI confirmed that MeitY had issued letters to Twitter asking it to remove the ‘manipulated media’ tags. According to the Foundation, MeitY had acknowledged Twitter’s policies and claimed that such policies were ‘opaque and violated the principles of natural justice’, since the users whose tweets were tagged as ‘manipulated media’ did not receive an opportunity to be heard.
“MeitY reiterated that tagging tweets carrying the alleged toolkit as ‘manipulated media’ would colour ongoing investigations. This time, however, MeitY requested Twitter to stop the practice of tagging tweets as ‘manipulated media’, at least during the pendency of this particular investigation,” the Foundation said in a post.
“Such requests have come without legal basis or authority. In its letters to Twitter or in the RTI response to us, MeitY has not made reference to any provision of law from which the authority to restrain an intermediary from fighting disinformation is derived,” said the Foundation. It added that Twitter’s policies need to be transparent, but MeitY doesn’t have the power to tell social media platforms how to govern their platforms.