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New IT guidelines: Twitter says overreach inconsistent with democratic principles

Twitter said that this “represents dangerous overreach that is inconsistent with open, democratic principles.” Twitter has also asked for three months in this regard.

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In the backdrop of the raging controversy over the Union government’s trying to persuade international social media companies to adhere to changes in the Information Technology Act and also in the backdrop of the privacy controversy, where WhatsApp has gone to court against the government, Twitter broke its silence on the issue on Thursday.

A posse of Delhi Police personnel had visited the offices of Twitter recently. The 8pm visit resulted in the policemen not being able to meet anybody since the employees were all working from home, but it was touted on social media as a show of muscle by the state agency.

“We’re 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 our customers.”

In a statement today, Twitter talked about the use of intimidation tactics by the police as one of its defences. It also talked in detail about how it wishes to protect freedom of expression and the privacy of its users.

The statement also talked about concerns regarding the requirement to make an individual (the compliance officer) criminally liable for content on the platform and also the blanket authority to seek information about our customers.

Twitter said that this “represents dangerous overreach that is inconsistent with open, democratic principles.” Twitter has also asked for three months in this regard.

“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. To keep our service available, 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.

“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. 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. We plan to advocate for changes to elements of these 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.

“We’re 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 our customers. This represents dangerous overreach that is inconsistent with open, democratic principles.

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“We urge the Ministry of Electronics and IT to publish these Standard Operating Protocols on procedural aspects of compliance for public consultation. We would request the Ministry to consider a minimum of 3 months’ extension in order for Twitter to implement the Rules.”

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