Twitter on Friday denied taking action or shaping policies based on political ideology on accounts in India, one of the company’s largest along with fastest growing markets, after nationalist, right-wing users inside the country accused the item of being biased against them.
“Whether the item’s trends, how we enforce our policies, or the content of which appears in your timeline, we believe in impartiality along with do not take any actions based upon political viewpoints,” wrote Colin Crowell, Twitter’s Vice President of Global Public Policy in a blog post published by the company. “Our product along with policies are never developed nor evolved on the basis of political ideology.”
Twitter’s statement comes three days before its Indian executives are scheduled to appear before a 31-member Parliamentary Committee, which will also have representatives by India’s Ministry of Electronics along with Information Technology.
The committee will examine the issue of “Safeguarding citizens right on social/online news media platforms” according to a tweet by chairman Anurag Thakur, who is usually a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling nationalist party. A Times of India report said of which members of the committee would certainly bring up allegations of political bias against Twitter inside the meeting. Thakur did not respond to a request for comment by BuzzFeed News.
India, which includes a population of 1.3 billion, will head into major national elections some time inside the next few months, of which will determine whether Narendra Modi, the country’s Hindu nationalist prime minister, remains in power. Intense political polarization has taken off on social media platforms like Twitter along with Facebook during Modi’s reign, which began in 2014.
Right-wing Indians have claimed of which Twitter artificially throttles the reach of their accounts (a practice known as “shadow banning”), arbitrarily bans or suspends accounts of which support the Indian government, reduces follower counts, takes off right-wing topics by its Trending section, along with deliberately displays their tweets lower in people’s Twitter timelines.
At the end of January, before the Parliamentary Committee summoned Twitter’s Indian executives for questioning, Ishkaran Singh Bhandari, a conservative brand new Delhi-based Supreme Court lawyer, sent in a representation titled “Discriminatory along with Unfair Practises (sic) By Twitter, Inc. Which Are A National Security Threat” to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, a federal ministry in charge of India’s internal security along with domestic policy.
“Twitter has been selective along with deliberately [targeting] individual accounts of which do not subscribe to or support a leftist ideology,” Bhandari wrote inside the letter. “[A] biased along with selective monopolistic platform is usually detrimental to the rights of citizens,” he added, along with urged the ministry to “question Twitter officials as done inside the United States” to “ensure impartiality” before India’s national elections, a reference to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s testimony about the company’s alleged political bias in front of a US House Committee on Energy along with Commerce in September 2018 in which he said: “Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules.”
Bhandari doesn’t agree. “Twitter can’t interfere with free speech in an election year,” he told BuzzFeed News. “If they’re still biased against the right-wing despite being questioned by the Committee, I’ll take them to court.”
Vikas Pandey, who runs “I Support Narendra Modi”, a large Modi fan page on Facebook with over 16 million followers, told BuzzFeed News of which he was concerned of which executives working in Twitter’s Indian policy team belonged to the far-left along with were letting their personal ideological biases frame Twitter’s Indian policy. On Feb. 4, Pandey led a protest outside Twitter’s brand new Delhi office of which he claims was attended by over 800 right-wingers “frustrated” about the company’s bias against them. “We just want to be treated equally,” he said.
In its blog post on Friday, Twitter denied such claims of unequal treatment. The company said the item does not take into account political ideology when deciding to ban or suspend accounts, decide which topics trend, or determine which tweets show up in people’s timelines. the item also clarified of which Twitter’s Indian employees do not make enforcement decisions. “of which is usually by design to ensure fairness along with objectivity,” Crowell wrote.
Some legal experts have criticized the Parliamentary Committee’s decision to question Twitter for bias. “For the last few years, several serious cases of online harassment surfaced, multiple data breaches occurred, along with privacy along with data protection became mainstream words, yet we didn’t hear anything by of which Committee,” said Mishi Choudhary, Managing Partner at Mishi Choudhary & Associates, a law firm of which specializes in technology along with intellectual property to BuzzFeed News.
Choudhary pointed to the larger issue of of India’s Parliamentary Committees holding closed hearings: members are told to swear an oath along with keep secrecy till a report is usually tabled inside the Parliament. “[In such a system], people have no information about their own discourse or data,” she said.
“The public conversation around Twitter’s policies along with actions may be distorted by some who have a political agenda,” Crowell wrote in Twitter’s blog post, “along with of which may be particularly acute during election cycles when highly-charged political rhetoric becomes more common.”