Concerned over Delhi Police’s intimidation tactics, says Twitter

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Micro-blogging platform Twitter on May 27 said it planned to advocate changes in core elements of India’s new IT Rules that inhibit free and open public conversation, while also expressing concern over “intimidation tactics” used by the Delhi Police against it recently in the ‘Congress toolkit’ case.

Stating that it will strive to comply with the revised IT laws in India, the U.S.-headquartered firm has also sought a minimum of three-month extension of the compliance window.

“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,” a company spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that Twitter is at present concerned by recent events regarding its employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for its users.

“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,” the company spokesperson added.

To seek changes

Twitter plans to advocate for changes to elements of these regulations that inhibit free and 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 noted.

According to Twitter, it 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 customers. It believes this represents dangerous overreach that is inconsistent with open and democratic principles.

The company has also said that the Ministry of Electronic and IT should publish the Standard Operating Protocols on procedural aspects of compliance for public consultation.

“We also would like to reaffirm that Twitter continues to accept grievances from users and law enforcement via our existing grievance redressal channel available here under the new Rules,” it said.

As per Twitter, it was recently served with a non-compliance notice and has withheld a portion of the content identified in the blocking order under its ‘Country Withheld Content’ policy.

Twitter maintains that the escalated content constitutes legitimate free speech. However, it has been compelled to withhold in response to a non-compliance notice due to the law’s limited scope under Section 69A, which gives limited room to an intermediary to defend the content. Not doing so poses penal consequences with many risks for Twitter employees.

'Lead by example'

The Delhi Police responded to Twitter's statement. "Twitter, being a public platform, must lead by example in demonstrating transparency in its functioning which has a bearing on public discourse and should proactively bring clarity into what are subject matters of public domain," it said.

Since the matter has been put in public domain, it is important to set the record straight on the tendentious statements made, the Delhi Police said.

(With inputs from Hemani Bhandari)

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2021 7:12:24 AM |

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