Earlier this week, Delhi police visited Twitter India’s offices in New Delhi and Gurugram to hand over a notice, but returned disappointed as these workspaces were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cops wanted to hand over the notice related to an investigation after Twitter had labeled tweets of the ruling party BJP leaders with a “manipulated media” tag.
Days later, The government of India sent a letter to significant social media intermediaries — platforms with more than 5 million users — regarding the compliance of new rules that came into effect on May 26. These rules demand faster takedown of “problematic” content, assigning special grievance and compliance officers, and having a voluntary user verification program through a government-issued ID.
Twitter has now responded to both events by saying that it’s concerned about the requirement to make an individual (the compliance officer) criminally liable for content on the platform:
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.
The firm added that it has requested the authorities for a minimum of. three months extension to implement these rules. It pointed out that it already has a grievance redressal officer — but they’re situated outside India.
In February, the firm first blocked and then unblocked many tweets from prominent accounts related to the farmer’s protest that began several months ago.
While the government of India scoffed at this decision and even threatened jail time to Twitter employees, the company stood firm and didn’t remove those tweets citing “freedom of speech.”
It added that India’s IT law gives it limited scope to defend its decision. What’s more, due to the non-compliance notice it was served recently, it had to withhold some content. It’s important to note that some of these requests are protected by law and are never made public, so we might not know the reason why this content was ordered to be taken down.