Even as the latest IT rules continue to bind the major social media intermediaries operating in India in a, for the lack of a better word, unexpected set of guidelines and rules, and the government crosses swords with popular micro-blogging site Twitter, there seems to be a division on the inside. India’s IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who has been vocal of his support for the IT rules and has more than once slammed Twitter for not complying with them, has resigned from his role hours ahead of an expected reshuffle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet. has resigned from his role hours ahead of an expected reshuffle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet. The cabinet aims to refurbish its image while battling harsh criticism over its handling of the pandemic, and other issues.
Prasad joins a list of ministers who have tendered their resignations ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle. The list also features Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, who also oversaw Environment, Forest, Climate Change, Heavy Industries, and Public Enterprises, along with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Minister of Human Resource Development, Sadananda Gowda, Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, and others. Counting Javadekar and Prasad, a total of 12 ministers have quit so far even as 43 new ministers were likely to take the oath on Wednesday.
Prasad has been a strong advocate of the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, and has more than once stressed the need for such rules to regulate the dominance of the social media giants operating in the country.
“All social media platforms are welcome to do business in India. They can criticize Ravi Shankar Prasad, my Prime Minister, or anyone. The issue is of misuse of social media. Some of them say we are bound by American laws. You operate in India, make good money, but you will take the position that you’ll be governed by American laws. This is plainly not acceptable,” Prasad had said at a virtual conference last week.
You may remember that his Twitter account was blocked for an hour in June on grounds of the alleged violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of the USA. And this comes even as the government and Twitter face-off over the IT rules (something which cost Twitter its immunity and made it liable under law).
However, there is no evidence that suggests that Prasad and Javadekar’s enforcement of the rules and clashes with US tech giants have any relation to their resignations. Prasad’s exit is, perhaps, the most surprising.