Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter Inc., listens during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.  Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Are Parliamentary Panel’s Summons To Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Justified?

A Parliamentary panel has summoned Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey to discuss “safeguarding the citizens’ rights” on social media after a group alleged that the micro-blogging site had a “right-wing” bias. But are the summons to Dorsey justified?

Technology lawyer Vinay Kesari doesn’t think so. The summons to Dorsey are very unusual because the committee led by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s Anurag Thakur isn’t probing any case, Kesari told BloombergQuint. There’s also lack of clarity on what exactly the summons are all about, he said.

We know very little of why they want to summon Dorsey. I’m also not sure what interest of democracy is being served by these summons.
Vinay Kesari, Technology Lawyer

The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology first summoned Dorsey on Feb. 7 but Twitter declined saying that he was called at “short notice”. Thakur had warned the social media platform of appropriate action if Twitter didn’t comply. That came after members of the so-called Youth for Social Media Democracy alleged “right-wing bias” by Twitter and accused it of deleting accounts that support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Twitter responded by saying it was committed to remaining unbiased and that its product as well as policies were never based on political ideology. The committee, however, didn’t meet Twitter officials on Feb. 11 and asked Dorsey to appear on Feb. 25.

Are Parliamentary Panel’s Summons To Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Justified?

The committee seems to have got its priorities mixed up, according to Raman Chima, policy director at Access Now, an advocacy for free internet. There are bigger issues to deal with, including user data privacy, which the committee must place at the top of its agenda, he said. He questioned why no one from Facebook was summoned by any parliamentary committee after more than five-and-a-half lakh Indians were affected by the security breach caused by Cambridge Analytica.

Then there is the legal aspect to the summons. If Dorsey doesn’t appear and if he is legally not obliged to, the optics will not work very well for India, said Kesari.

You can watch the debate here: