Significant cabinet shuffle in India . . .
In a surprise move on Wednesday, 12 Indian ministers resigned, including India’s Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar. The surprise exits came ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most significant cabinet shuffle in seven years as he inducted 36 new ministers, increasing the cabinet size from 52 to 77. Odisha MP Ashwini Vaishnaw will be taking over as Minister of Electronics and IT. He will also be the Minister of Communications and Railways. While reasons for former IT Minister Prasad’s exit remain unclear, he was a key figure behind the new Indian IT rules that put a negative spotlight on India due to allegations of censorship, intimidation, and repressive techniques to regulate online content.
Twitter loses immunity over failure to comply with Indian IT rules . . .
On Thursday, the Delhi High Court upheld the Indian government’s recent filing against Twitter. The microblogging platform will no longer be treated as an intermediary due to its non-compliance with India’s new IT rules that went into effect in May and will be held liable for user-posted content by third parties in India. The new IT rules allow the Indian government to make legal requests to digital intermediaries to remove content and identify original sources of information that it considers harmful, a security risk, or unlawful. One of Twitter’s challenges has been its inability to appoint and retain a resident grievance officer and a local contact person responsible for addressing complaints and grievances against the platform.
Revamping Indian politics . . .
The IT rules have been criticized for the overreaching power they grant to the Indian government, violating individual rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and possible political misuse. However, the new IT rules suggest the Indian government is aware of the country’s value in the digital space, given its enormous consumer market. Meanwhile, the cabinet shuffle and new IT minister suggest the Modi government is attuned to growing negative public opinion, sparked recently by the second wave of COVID-19 and its mismanagement coupled with political bungles in the fields of education and IT. Undoubtedly, the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party is moving to revamp its image ahead of the 2022 state elections. But what this means for censorship and freedom of expression in India remains to be seen.