With Musk taking control of India and introducing new IT laws, will Twitter be a “free bird” or will its wings be clipped?



Elon Musk has completed his $44 billion takeover of Twitter, the microblogging giant, after months of delays, criticism, verbal battles and legal drama. Although the billionaire tweeted “The bird is freed” which could mean the end of his takeover, questions about the freedom of such social platforms continue to arise.

According to media reports, Musk arrived at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and met with engineers, as well as advertising executives. Several senior executives, including CEO, Parag Agrawal, have also been reported to have been fired.

Musk, who once called himself the “absolute of free speech,” has previously stated that he wants Twitter to be more open to all kinds of comments.

Therefore, many users are now curious to know when former US President Donald Trump will return to Twitter as his account was permanently suspended after the deadly riots that took place in the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

But the completion of the deal and Musk’s acquisition of the platform raised questions about the future direction of the platform – particularly in India.

Government vs. Twitter

It’s no secret that Twitter has been having some tough times in India. In one incident last year, Indian officials held a virtual meeting with the micro-blogging giant.

Twitter was then told that although it can do business in the state, it must follow the laws of the state regardless of the company’s rules and guidelines.

The social media giant also had to face courtroom dramas regarding the appointment of its chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and India-based ombudsman.

However, it is said that the Indian government now intends to move forward with setting up committees that will have the final say on the remaining social media content or which will be removed, with the amendment of the IT rules, 2021, putting this into practice.

The proposal was first submitted in June as a draft notification seeking public feedback. At the time, some critics said the center’s proposed grievance redress panel would give the government the last word on the Internet.

But now, it has been reported that the new version will keep the basic concept but will add multiple grievance committees instead of one. It will also allow moderators to make “reasonable efforts” to ensure that users do not post illegal content.

Among other things, the new amendments apparently proposed the formation of multiple grievance appeal committees led by government-appointed employees to hear appeals from people against decisions made by social media companies, which includes Twitter.

The need or importance of multiple grievance redress bodies remains unclear.

But such moves raise questions about the future of Twitter India in light of Musk’s stance on “freedom of speech” amid pressure from the Indian government on social media companies.

The future of the blue bird

Rajarshi Bhattacharyya, Chairman and Managing Director of ProcessIT Global, spoke to News18 to explain what Musk’s acquisition means in terms of the platform’s future in the country.

“Better streamlining of content on the platform is now expected as Musk previously agreed that Twitter must follow local law in India,” he said.

Bhattacharya said the government’s policies and rules for such brokers would not change and would expect all platforms, regardless of who owns them, to comply with Indian laws and social media rules.

In addition, he indicated that the platform must include provocative content that may lead to social unrest and threaten national security.

“I expect to see an improvement in the ongoing situation with this new development in Twitter,” the expert said.

Bhattacharyya also suggested that Twitter ensure that posted content does not negatively affect government performance, social fabric and individual sentiment, as well as strictly follow government regulations on this matter.

The platform must act responsibly and ensure that posts that disrupt the sovereignty, integrity and security of India He added that its relations with foreign countries are severed.

Neeraj Pura, founder of Surmount Business Consultants, Pvt Ltd, stated that he thinks Musk might want to have a more democratic environment, without much moderation, while the Indian government may have different ideas in terms of expressing ideas.

But he said, “Since India is among the top 3 markets for Twitter, I think Twitter will eventually align with local regulations.”

He also believes that Twitter will focus on monetizing its users in India rather than getting involved in conflicts with local governments around the world.

According to Bora, this is because Twitter has ripple effects; So if Indian users or celebrities are outside the platform, global followers will follow them elsewhere and spend time elsewhere on social media.

Regarding content monitoring by the government, Bora indicated that it will be limited to a small number of accounts.

He said: “Twitter or the government would not want millions of users to be affected by disputes over a few accounts. The worst case scenario, is that the courts will decide how to censor content. Moreover, banning Twitter would not be a scenario because it does not benefit the government and the company.”

Mithun Vijay Kumar, a content management specialist, author, and political analyst, told News18 that given what Musk had previously mentioned regarding compliance with local laws, Twitter will in all likelihood comply with the Indian government’s social media regulations in the future as well.

However, he said, “Musk is known for making successful and failed business decisions and also for solving highly complex problems with his companies that show consistent performance. Given the unexpected and sudden nature of his business strategies, the possibility of disagreement underlining policy issues cannot be completely ruled out.”

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