The Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 mandates Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to facilitate identification of the first originator of the information on being asked by the court or the government. The regulation also requires social media companies to set up a three-tier grievance redressal framework with a resident grievance officer, a chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person.
Two days after WhatsApp went to Delhi High Court challenging the new IT rules which it said compromised a user’s right to privacy, Twitter on Thursday raised concerns about the “potential threat” to freedom of expression as the new IT rules came into effect. Twitter also expressed concern regarding “intimidation tactics”, following the Delhi Police Special Cell visit in the context of the “toolkit” controversy.
As per reports, a Twitter spokesperson said that the company “strives to comply with applicable law” in India and added, “Twitter is deeply committed to the people of India...Our service has proven vital for the public conversation and a source of support for people during the pandemic...Just as we do around the world, we will continue to be strictly guided by a commitment to empowering every voice on the service, and protecting freedom of expression and privacy under the rule of law.”
The spokesperson said that Twitter intends to ask for changes in the guidelines to “elements that inhibit free, open conversation”. She said, “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.”
However, Twitter directly didn’t address the visit by the Delhi Police but did mention that, “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”.
But hours after Twitter expressed its concerns, the Ministry of Electronic and IT made a press release in response. The Government says that Twitter’s statement is an attempt to dictate terms to the world’s largest democracy. The Government said that through its actions and deliberate defiance, Twitter is seeking to undermine the country’s legal system.
“Twitter needs to stop beating around the bush & comply with laws of the land. Lawmaking & policy formulations is the sole prerogative of the sovereign and Twitter is just a social media platform & it has no locus in dictating what India's legal policy framework should be,” the ministry said in the press release.