Twitter called for the government to respect freedom of expression.(AP Photo)
Twitter called for the government to respect freedom of expression.(AP Photo)

'Twitter's statement on IT rules an attempt to defame India to hide own follies': Govt

India has a glorious tradition of free speech and democratic practices dating back centuries. Protecting free speech in India is not the prerogative of only a private, for-profit, foreign entity like Twitter, the government said.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 27, 2021 06:13 PM IST

The Centre on Thursday lashed out at micro-blogging website Twitter, saying its statement on the country's new IT rules is an attempt to dictate its terms to the world’s largest democracy. The statement has been posted on Koo, the India-made social media platform, which gained traction earlier this year after the long-standing spat between the Centre on Twitter started around January-February.

Also Read: Twitter says dialogue with Govt will continue

The government said that the unfortunate statement issued by Twitter is totally baseless, false and an attempt to defame India to hide their own follies. It asked Twitter to "stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land".

In the statement, the Centre strongly controverted the claims made by Twitter. "Twitter refuses to comply with those very regulations in the Intermediary Guidelines on the basis of which it is claiming a safe harbour protection from any criminal liability in India," the government statement said.

"India has a glorious tradition of free speech and democratic practices dating back centuries. Protecting free speech in India is not the prerogative of only a private, for-profit, foreign entity like Twitter," it added.

The strongly-worded statement said that the only instance of scuttling free speech on Twitter is Twitter itself and its opaque policies. "As a result of this, people’s accounts are suspended and tweets deleted arbitrarily without recourse."

Also Read: Amid controversy with WhatsApp, RS Prasad defends digital media guidelines

The government also said that law making and policy formulation is the "sole prerogative of the sovereign" and a social media platform like Twitter has no locus in dictating what should India’s legal policy framework should be.

"The government also wishes to emphatically assure that representatives of social media companies including Twitter are and will always remain safe in India and there is no threat to their personal safety and security," the Centre said.

In the latest round of the ongoing spat, Twitter said in a statement that it is concerned by recent events "regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve".

The social network reiterated its commitment to India as a vital market, but criticised new IT rules and regulations that it said "inhibit free, open public conversation."

In the new digital rules, social media companies like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have been asked to identify within 36 hours the origin of a flagged message as well as conduct additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer.

Also Read: WhatsApp moves court against government of India. Here’s what it said

According to Twitter, the company is particularly concerned about the requirement to make an individual (the compliance officer) criminally liable for content on the platform, the requirements for proactive monitoring, and the blanket authority to seek information about its users.

This, it said, represents dangerous overreach that is inconsistent with open, democratic principles.

Twitter said it will continue to have dialogue with the government on the new rules.

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