Twitter India will comply with Indian laws but was worried by “the use of intimidation tactics by the police”, said the company on Thursday, referring to the country’s new internet rules and being served a legal notice in Delhi.
“To keep our service available, we will strive to comply with applicable law in India. But, just as we do around the world, we will continue to be strictly guided by principles of transparency, a commitment to empowering every voice on the service, and protecting freedom of expression and privacy under the rule of law,” said a Twitter spokesperson.
An elite anti-terrorism squad of the Delhi Police went to the offices of Twitter India in Delhi and Gurgaon on Monday as part of an investigation into “toolkit” allegedly made by the opposition party Indian National Congress. Twitter India has tagged “manipulated media” posts made by some BJP leaders about the toolkit.
“Right now, we are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve. We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules,” said the spokesperson.
According to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, published on February 25, a ‘significant social media intermediary’ has to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person for 24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies, and a resident grievance officer.
It also has to be able to identify the first originator of problematic content that may harm the country’s interests and several other provisions described in the Rules.
A significant social media intermediary was defined as one with over 50 lakh registered users.
“We plan to advocate for changes to elements of these regulations that inhibit free, open public conversation. We will continue our constructive dialogue with the Indian Government and believe it is critical to adopt a collaborative approach. It is the collective responsibility of elected officials, industry, and civil society to safeguard the interests of the public,” said the spokesperson.
Twitter has further raised concerns about the requirement to make an individual (the compliance officer) criminally liable for content on the platform, the requirements for proactive monitoring, and the blanket authority to seek information about its customers, as per the new IT Rules.
According to Twitter and privacy advocates, these requirements represent “dangerous overreach”.
Several industry groupings have urged the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to extend the IT Rules’ compliance deadline by six months to a year, and also publish Standard Operating Protocols on procedural aspects of compliance for public consultation.
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