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Twitter to hire India head and liaison officer for elections in India

Twitter

Twitter will hire a liaison officer with the Election Commission of India, reports Reuters. This follows a government IT Committee meeting, which gave Twitter 10 days to respond to its questions.

Twitter’s global head of public policy Colin Crowell, who represented the company at the committee, said that the Indian election was a top priority for the company. “So making sure that we have personnel in position to do that, whether we call that a nodal officer, we’ll make sure we’ll have what the Election Commission needs,” Crowell told Indian Express.

Twitter will also have a process and mechanism to address (unspecified) issues during the election period. Further, it is in the process of hiring a country head for India, Crowell said, without specifying a timeline.

More notes from the interview:

  • Crowell said that Twitter would ensure that only one hashtag is contributed from every account, in order to address the manipulation of ‘Trending Topics’ on Twitter
  • He added that the company may come up with bespoke rules for its “trust and safety” policy for certain countries
  • On Twitter’s low compliance with legal requests from the Indian government, Crowell said that conveying legal requests for user info is pursuant to the Mutual Assistance Legal Treaty (MLAT) signed between the US and India:

“The difference is that in the US, our established process is consistent with the fact that our user information is there and present, and we have an established process with warrants to convey user information to law enforcement authorities. In India, its pursuant to a process which is not Twitter’s invention, called the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT), with the government of the United States. We do get complaints about that and sometimes the complaint is about the MLAT process itself.

After the meeting, committee chairman MP Anurag Thakur said that the company was asked to engage more with India’s election commission to ensure free and fair elections, without providing any specifics. As Crowell’s team was unable to reply to some questions, the committee gave Twitter 10 days to file written responses.

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  • According to the report, Twitter was asked to comply swiftly with any requests from the Election Commission related to issues like hate speech of defamatory content.
  • Twitter was asked to scale its mechanism for grievance redressal.

Twitter’s former country head Taranjeet Singh stepped down last year, and per Reuters, another executive is currently serving as the head of local operations.

Parliamentary committee hearing

Twitter was summoned to Parliamentary Committee on IT earlier in February, after a group of people protested against Twitter, accusing it of being biased against the right-wing. However, committee members refused to meet Twitter’s India officials, and gave CEO Jack Dorsey 15 days to present himself.

The company explained that it is ‘impartial’ and denied any ideology-based bias against conservative voices on the platform. Finally, Crowell confirmed his attendance at the meeting on February 25. It’s worth noting that only 9 of the 31 members of the committee were present at the meeting, one member called the meeting ‘a waste of public money’.

Twitter announced its own political advertiser verification process and political ads library ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019, following Facebook and Google’s efforts.

Also read: IT Parliamentary Committee calls on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram reps to meet next month

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