Twitter involved by ‘potential menace’ to freedom of expression in India

Twitter said Thursday it was concerned about the “potential threat” to freedom of expression as India’s new social media rules came into effect. The social media company also pointed to “intimidation tactics” days after the Delhi Police Special Cell visited their office in connection with the “toolkit” controversy, NDTV reported.

A comprehensive set of rules regulating social media businesses, streaming and digital news content was issued on February 25th. For the first time, the new rules will put these platforms under the hands of the government.

Among other things, the provisions of the “Information Technology (Guidelines for Brokers and Code of Ethics for Digital Media), 2021” stipulated that social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Signal and Facebook must now provide details on the origin of a tweet or Facebook Message at the request of a court or government agency. The regulation also requires social media companies to set up a three-tier framework for resolving complaints.

A spokesman for Twitter said the company “is trying to comply with the law in India,” but will strictly adhere to the principles of transparency. “Twitter is deeply committed to the people of India,” added the spokesman. “Our service has proven to be important 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 the commitment to empower every voice in the service to protect freedom of expression and privacy under the law. “

The spokesman added that the company plans to call for changes to the policy for “elements that prevent free, open conversation”. “We will continue our constructive dialogue with the Indian government and believe that it is important to take a collaborative approach,” she said. “It is the collective responsibility of elected officials, industry and civil society to protect the interests of the public.”

Without referring directly to the action by Delhi police to search Twitter offices, the social media giant said: “We have concerns about the use of intimidation tactics among many in civil society in India and around the world Police in response to the enforcement of our global terms of use as well as core elements of the new IT rules. “

Facebook and Google have announced that they will ensure compliance with the rules. Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive officer, said at a virtual conference with reporters on Wednesday that free and open internet is “essential,” PTI reported.

“It is obviously early days and our local teams are very dedicated,” added Pichai. “We always respect the local laws in every country in which we operate and work constructively. We have clear transparency reports. When we comply with government requirements, we highlight this in our transparency reports. “

The ‘Toolkit’ line

Controversy began after Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Sambit Patra tweeted on May 18 alleging that Congress had created a “toolkit” or campaign material to target the reputation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government the management of the coronavirus to gloomy crisis. Several BJP leaders, including the party’s national president JP Nadda, had stepped up Patra’s tweet.

The fact-checking website AltNews found the document was created on forged Congressional letterhead. Congress has filed several complaints alleging the documents were forged.

Twitter marked some of the posts, including Patras, as “rigged media”. Twitter has stated that it applies its Tampered Media tag to posts that “contain media (video, audio, and images) that have been misleadingly altered or manufactured”.

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