The central government on Thursday, 27 May, issued a strongly-worded statement against Twitter, saying it "needs to stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land," while calling the microblogging platform's statement issued hours earlier as "totally baseless, false and an attempt to defame India to hide their own follies."
Earlier on Thursday, Twitter had issued a statement saying, "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's statement came amid its clash with the government over the Congress 'toolkit' row and the tagging of BJP leaders' posts as 'manipulated media'. A team of the Delhi Police Special Cell had paid a visit to Twitter India’s offices earlier this week, after serving a notice to the company.
What Did the Govt Say?
In a press release issued, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY)said on Thursday, "Twitter's statement is an attempt to dictate its terms to the world's largest democracy. Through its actions and deliberate defiance, Twitter seeks to undermine India's legal system. Furthermore, 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."
Asserting that the government respects the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the right to privacy, MeitY said the "only instance of scuttling free speech on Twitter is Twitter itself and its opaque policies, as a result of which people's accounts are suspended and tweets deleted arbitrarily without recourse."
“Law making and policy formulations is the sole prerogative of the sovereign and Twitter is just a social media platform and it has no locus in dictating what should India’s legal policy framework should be. (sic).”Ministry of Electronics and IT
In its statement, the government also sought to "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."
Plea Filed in Delhi HC Against Twitter
A plea has been moved in the Delhi HC against microblogging platform against the non-compliance of IT rules by Twitter.
According to Livelaw, the petitioner Amit Acharya, a practicing advocate in the Delhi High Court, and the Supreme Court states that Twitter is a "Significant Social Media Intermediary" (SSMI) as laid down under the IT Rules, 2021, and therefore, must ensure compliance with the statutory duties imposed upon it by the provisions of these rules."
Acharya elaborates that as subscriber and user of Twitter, he found allegedly "defamatory, false and untrue tweets" by two individuals.
However, when he decided to look for the "Resident Grievance Officer to lodge a complaint with, however, he found no details of the Resident Grievance Officer on the page of Twitter," which he says is "a clear violation of Sub-Rule 2(a) of Rule 3, which says that the intermediary shall prominently publish on its website, mobile-based application or both, as the case may be, the name of the Grievance Officer and his contact details."
What Did Twitter Say?
Earlier in the day, Twitter had said it was worried about the safety of its staff in India, days after the Delhi Police visited its offices in Delhi and Gurugram.
Lending clarity on the IT rules, a Twitter spokesperson said it will strive to comply with applicable law in India, adding, ""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."
“We urge the Ministry of Electronics & 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 three-month extension for Twitter to implement the rules,” Twitter said in a statement.
"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," the spokesperson added.