A day after WhatsApp challenged India’s new IT Rules, Twitter on Thursday criticised IT Ministry’s new Rules and Delhi Police’ recent raids at its offices, leading the Ministry and the Police to remind Twitter to adhere to the Rules in India as they are operating India. Twitter on Thursday afternoon said it was very concerned with the “recent events” regarding its employees in the country and “the potential threat to freedom of expression” for its users. In a statement and in series of Tweets, Twitter said certain provisions of new IT Rules in India is against the open public conversations and wish to have a constructive dialogue with the Indian Government, expressing displeasure on the recent raid at its offices in Delhi and Gurugram.
The recent provocation from Twitter was by classifying ruling BJP leaders’ Tweets as ‘manipulated media’ in connection with allegations and counter-allegations between the ruling party and the opposition Congress. The issue started over the authenticity of a document termed Toolkit claimed by BJP accusing Congress of trying to malign Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. Congress accused BJP of creating fake documents and both parties started filing cases against each other and meanwhile taking sides in the political fight, Twitter termed BJP leaders’ tweets as “manipulated media”.
Within hours IT Ministry and Delhi Police reacted to Twitter. The first response came from IT Ministry asking not to dictate their terms to India, the World’s largest democracy.
“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,” said Twitter’s Policy Division on Thursday…
“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. We believe that it is the collective responsibility of elected officials, industry, and civil society to safeguard the interests of the public,” it added.
Within hours IT Ministry and Delhi Police reacted to Twitter. The first response came from IT Ministry asking not to dictate their terms to India, the World’s largest democracy. The Ministry condemned the statement issued by the microblogging platform as baseless, false and an attempt to defame India. The IT Ministry asserted that representatives of social media companies, including Twitter, “are and will always remain safe in India”, and that there is “no threat to their personal safety and security“.
Then came the Delhi Police statement asking Twitter to co-operate with the probe, rather than making false statements. “Prima facie, these statements are not only mendacious but designed to impede a lawful inquiry by a private enterprise. Twitter Inc. has taken upon itself, in the garb of terms of service, to adjudicate the truth or otherwise of documents in public space. Twitter Inc. is purporting to be both an investigating authority as well as an adjudicating judicial authority. It has no legal sanction to be either. The only legal entity, so empowered by the duly laid down law, to investigate is the Police and to adjudicate is the Courts.
“The entire conduct by Twitter Inc, including its Indian entity, in the last few days has been obfuscatory, diversionary and tendentious. There is one simple thing to do which Twitter refuses to do. That is, cooperate with law enforcement and reveal to the legal authority the information it has. ….Twitter India’s subsidiary, TCIPL’s Managing Director, chose to adopt a path of evasiveness instead of cooperation.
“Initially, TCIPL’s Managing Director stated in his response that he was merely a sales head, had no role whatsoever in any operations relating to the content and thereby refused to join the inquiry. It is to be noted that TCIPL’s stance that its Managing Director is a mere sales head runs contrary to his very own previous press interviews wherein he elaborately discussed Twitter’s plan to devise methods to identify abusive/ manipulative content. The above interview makes it clear, that Twitter India’s convoluted stance is similar to a deer caught in the headlights…Twitter’s Inc’s latest statements are devised to seek dubious sympathy when they themselves not only refuse to comply with the law of the land but also claim to be a possession of material evidence but refuse to share it with legal authority duly recognized,” said Delhi Police in a detailed statement, cautioning Twitter and asking them to cooperate with the probe.
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