New Delhi: The battle between the Indian government and social media giants escalated on Thursday. Twitter accused the police of “intimidating” and attacking new IT rules, which shocked its peers and privacy campaigners.
Critics say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government wants to curb the position of online criticism in the huge market of Twitter, Facebook and others. The government refused to charge.
Late Monday, Indian police visited Twitter’s office and notified the US company that the company had failed to remove the “manipulative media” label posted on Twitter by the ruling party’s spokesperson.
After a quarrel earlier this year, Twitter refused to comply in part with official requests to delete tweets about the controversial new agricultural law and the government’s handling of the pandemic.
A Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement: “At present, we are concerned about recent incidents related to Indian employees and potential threats to freedom of speech by the people we serve.”
It added that, like many people in civil society in India and around the world, Twitter “is concerned about the intimidation tactics used by the police to enforce our global terms of service.”
The Weibo site also criticized the “core elements” of the new IT rules, which took effect on Wednesday and prompted WhatsApp to initiate legal proceedings against the Indian government.
The regulation may require social media companies to track the “first author” of posts believed to undermine India’s sovereignty, national security or “public order.”
Companies and privacyists worry that the ambiguity of the rules means that companies may be forced to identify the authors of positions criticizing the government.
Strive to comply
Twitter is particularly concerned about the requirement to appoint a compliance officer who will be criminally responsible for content and requires at least three months to comply.
The spokesperson said: “Like what we have done all over the world, we will continue to strictly abide by the principle of transparency, committed to empowering all voices on the service, and protecting freedom of speech and privacy under the rule of law.”
“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,” a Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
It added that together with many in civil society in India and around the world, Twitter has “concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service”.
The microblogging site also criticised “core elements” of new IT rules that came into force on Wednesday and which have prompted WhatsApp to launch legal action against the Indian government.
The regulations could require social media companies to trace the “first originator” of posts deemed to undermine India s sovereignty, state security or “public order”.
The firms and privacy activists fear that the vagueness of the rules mean that the companies could be forced to identify the author of posts critical of the government.