Boney M’s 1978 disco hit Rasputin and an Indian pop song called Maa Tujhe Salaam (Mother, I Salute You) have been revealed as the reason Twitter briefly suspended the accounts of two Indian politicians.
On June 25th, Twitter briefly suspended the account of India’s Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad after receiving a complaint under the USA’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Prasad alleged the suspension was not due to copyright but was instead Twitter nakedly using its power to silence him as part the company’s pushback against India’s new Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code.
Twitter’s actions indicate that they are not the harbinger of free speech that they claim to be but are only interested in running their own agenda, with the threat that if you do not tow the line they draw, they will arbitrarily remove you from their platform.— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) June 25, 2021
Shashi Tharoor, an MP who chairs India’s Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology, also had his account briefly shuttered.
Twitter was hauled before the Indian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Information Technology to explain its actions and, in a written response to questions, revealed that one of Prasad’s tweets included A.R. Rahman's patriotic ode and that Sony India complained about its use. Tharoor’s offending tweet included Boney M’s opus about a cat that really was gone, which we have embedded at the end of this story to remind you of just how fabulous Disco was — and is.
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But we digress.
Twitter went on to explain its actions on the grounds that it emails account holders when it blocks tweets and suspends their accounts, and that the service’s terms and conditions make it plain that users must not breach copyright.
Twitter also defended its actions, telling the Committee: “We do not withhold content in response to DMCA takedown notices that are incomplete, do not concern copyright issues, or that we determine to be fraudulent.”
Prasad hasn’t responded to Twitter’s statements but has praised Facebook, Instagram, and Google for complying with the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code by filing their first compliance reports that list the content they’ve blocked.
Facebook’s report [PDF] states that it blocked over 30 million internet nasties, and Instagram took down over two million items.
Facebook’s report records only proactive takedowns. The Code, however, also requires social media companies to appoint officers who respond to takedown requests and complaints.
The law backing the Code contains vague wording about those roles, and can be read as making the officers who hold them personally liable if content is not removed or slips through automated filters.
Twitter has not stated that the possibility of its staffers being personally liable is the reason it appointed a law firm and named its US-based general counsel to fill the roles, but its decision to do so has been interpreted as an attempt to make the roles workable.
Before we wrap things up, as promised, here’s Rasputin.
And here’s Maa Tujhe Salaam, too, to stir your heart.