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Post meeting with Parliamentary IT panel, Twitter says ‘prepared to work with Committee’

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Twitter reportedly accepted before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology that it gives priority to its own laid down policies over Indian law in cases of conflict, which led the panel to conclude that the social media company was in violation of the IT Act, 2000.

According to a report by Economic Times, the panel questioned Twitter India representatives on June 18 on various issues such as the appointment of a full-time compliance officer, its status of being an intermediary and so on for over 90 minutes. At the end of the meeting, the panel reportedly gave Twitter representatives queries to which the social media company has to provide answers soon. The report does not quote any official, and the information is attributed to sources.

MediaNama on Monday tried contacting several members of the Standing Committee. While one of the members said that he was not authorised to talk about the issue, others did not respond. A Twitter Spokesperson too declined to divulge details about the proceedings of the meeting but said —

“We appreciate the opportunity to share our views before the Standing Committee on Information Technology. Twitter stands prepared to work with the Committee on the important work of safeguarding citizens’ rights online in line with our principles of transparency, freedom of expression, and privacy. We will also continue working alongside the Indian Government as part of our shared commitment to serve and protect the public conversation — Twitter Spokesperson

Proceedings of the panel, according to the report

The Economic Times article makes these points regarding the meeting —

  • Panel was reportedly of the view that Twitter was flouting Section 49 (2) (b) of the IT and had thus violated the norms established for an intermediary
  • Panel reportedly sought to ask why Twitter had not appointed a compliance officer
  • Panel also asked about how Twitter differentiated between harmful and healthy content, to which Twitter reportedly replied that an algorithm takes the calls

Twitter’s long-drawn tussle with the Indian government

These developments come in the backdrop of a long standoff between the Indian government and Twitter regarding the implementation of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. Last week, the Indian government sent Twitter a “last notice” urging it to immediately comply with the rules and warned that failure to do so would lead the platform to lose exemption from liability under the IT Act.

In the letter, India had said —

  • Twitter has not informed about the details of the Chief Compliance Officer as required under the Rules
  • Resident Grievance Officer and Nodal Contact Person nominated by Twitter Inc is not an employee of the platform
  • The office address of Twitter Inc is of a law firm in India

On May 26, when the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 came into force, it was speculated that significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) who do not comply with the rules will be banned in India. Twitter had raised concerns regarding the appointment of a chief compliance officer, and the demand for proactive monitoring as prescribed under the new rules.

The issue was also taken to the Delhi High Court by advocate Amit Acharya, who in his petition said that Twitter’s address for Grievance Redressal OFficer’s address was not located in India, thus violating the new IT Rules 2021. During the hearing of the matter, Twitter clarified to the judges that it has appointed a new grievance redressal officer who is located in the country. The next hearing over the matter is in July.

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Twitter also embroiled in a tussle with the Delhi Police and UP Police

Recently, an FIR was lodged against Twitter India Managing Director, Twitter India and others for tweets made in relation to the Ghaziabad assault case, where an elderly Muslim man was recorded on video being assaulted. Ghaziabad Police alleged that tweets made on the platform tried to paint the issue in a communal colour, whereas the assault was a result of an interpersonal issue. Twitter India was named as an accused in the case registered at Loni Border Police Station because it had allegedly failed to remove the ‘provocative tweets’ despite the police providing clarification regarding the matter. Around 50 tweets were also removed by Twitter in this regard following a demand made by Indian law enforcement agencies, MediaNama reported.

On the other hand, Delhi police served a notice and visited two offices of Twitter in connection with an alleged Indian National Congress-created toolkit. Twitter had labelled tweets of BJP politicians including spokesperson Sambit Patra and others on the alleged toolkit prepared by Congress as “manipulated media”.

The tweets alleged that Congress had created this toolkit to defame the Prime Minister and ‘undermine’ the government’s Covid-19 vaccination policy. Soon after Delhi Police sent a notice to Twitter seeking clarification on the usage of the term “manipulated media” since the matter was under investigation.

Also read

Update, June 21, 6.14 pm: Headline changed from “Post meeting with Parliamentary IT panel, Twitter says ‘committed to work with Committee’” to “Post meeting with Parliamentary IT panel, Twitter says ‘prepared to work with Committee’”

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