Twitter, on May 27, expressed its concern for the social media site’s employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression amid a row over the government’s new digital rules that came into effect yesterday.
“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,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
The Twitter official hinted at the visit by the police at the microblogging site’s offices in Delhi and Gurugram on May 24 to serve notice in connection to the "Congress toolkit" case.
On the digital rules that all major social media platforms need to comply with, the Twitter spokesperson said, “we will strive to comply with applicable law in India. But, just as we do around the world, we will continue to be strictly guided by principles of transparency, a commitment to empowering every voice on the service, and protecting freedom of expression and privacy under the rule of law.”
This is the first time that Twitter has reacted to the ‘Congress toolkit’ issue as well as the new rules for social media platforms that were notified on February 25 this year and the sites were given three months’ time to alter their policies for service in India in accordance with the guidelines.
While hailing its service as vital for public conversation and a source of support for people during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Twitter spokesperson said that they plan to advocate for changes to elements of the new regulation regulations that “inhibit free, open public conversation.”
“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,” the spokesperson added.
The ‘Congress toolkit’ case pertains to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accusing accused the Congress party of having an alleged "toolkit" for creating a negative image of India and its Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The grand old party, in response, has filed a police complaint against BJP leaders for forgery, spreading misinformation, and defamation.
The other issue flagged by Twitter is regarding the new digital rules, concerns about which have been raised by several social media intermediaries. Facebook has taken a stance similar to Twitter that it would comply with the guidelines but continue to have a dialogue with the government over a few issues. Facebook-owned unit WhatsApp, however, has filed a petition against the government in the Delhi High Court over one of the rules that requires it to identify the ‘originator’ of a message.
(Edited by : Kanishka Sarkar)
First Published: IST