‘Twitter prepared to work with Parliamentary Committee’

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Social media platform Twitter appeared before a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology today, answering questions about the government’s new information technology (IT) rules, the recent controversy around the platform placing manipulated media tags on posts by politicians and more. The committee, which is led by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, told the company that the “rule of the land” will be supreme and not Twitter’s internal policies.

The appearance was part of the committee’s routine consultations with the industry, though it does question platforms on recent issues as well. The same committee had also resolved to look into allegations against Facebook last year, that the company’s then public policy chief had opposed the application of its hate speech rules against individuals linked to the ruling party. It had also called representatives of Facebook, Twitter and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in January this year.

The committee’s agenda for today’s hearing, according to the Parliament website, was, “To hear the views of representatives of Twitter followed by evidence of representatives of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the subject ‘Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space.”

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“We appreciate the opportunity to share our views before the Standing Committee on Information Technology. Twitter stands prepared to work with the Committee on the important work of safeguarding citizens’ rights online in line with our principles of transparency, freedom of expression, and privacy,” Twitter said in a statement. “We will also continue working alongside the Indian Government as part of our shared commitment to serve and protect the public conversation,” it added.

The microblogging giant has been involved in an ongoing tussle with the Indian government over its Intermediary Guidelines, announced in February. The guidelines require platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp etc. to appoint nodal officers in key compliance positions, create automated processes for taking down pornography, remove offending content within 36 hours of receiving a legal order, and trace down the first originator of offending posts and messages in India.

Compliance with the intermediary guidelines is essential for platforms to enjoy safe harbour protections detailed in Section 79 of India’s IT Act. The government has said, on multiple occasions, that Twitter is in non-compliance with these rules. “There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision. However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May,” IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted on June 16.

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“We are keeping the MeitY apprised of the progress at every step of the process. An interim Chief Compliance Officer has been retained and details will be shared with the Ministry directly. Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with the new Guidelines,” Twitter had said at the time.

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