Lessons for India as Twitter refuses to attend House panel hearing

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. (Xinhua/Ting Shen/IANS)

New Delhi (IANS) When Google CEO Sundar Pichai refused to attend a US Senate hearing on September 5 last year and instead let an empty chair and a nameplate represent him, the gesture left many lawmakers fuming.

Google instead sent a letter to the Senate Intelligent Committee on why the company was not to appear for a hearing on issues like foreign interference during elections on its platform.

Pichai, however, did appear before a House Judiciary Committee in December and addressed several issues, including that the search giant's algorithms are biased against conservative content.

When Twitter on Saturday declined to appear before an Indian parliamentary panel on Feb 11 to address similar allegations about the presence of political bias on its platform, one thing was clear: India has to do more like the US to wield the big stick and get social media giants take the country seriously when it comes to foreign interference or spread of fake news on their platforms.

Twitter cited "short notice" for the unaviliabilty of its top officials, including its CEO Jack Dorsey who visited India last year, to appear before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur.

According to sources, Twitter's letter has not gone down well with the panel members in what is perceived as "lack of seriousness".

A day before, Twitter issued a statement, saying it is fighting political bias in India and the very next day, refused to appear before the House panel.

The hearing was to be in line with what we have seen with Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Pichai testifying and being grilled by lawmakers in the US and in the European Union (EU) over data privacy, political interference and fake news.

Refusing to participate in a constructive dialogue with the Indian government has actually made the road ahead difficult for Twitter.

All eyes are now on the panel members how they react and summon Twitter again, this time with some serious repercussions.

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