The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has asked representatives of Twitter to appear before it on June 18 after a row over privacy laws and IT regulation rules.
The panel has also invited officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to get their version.
This will be a continuation of discussions with the social media groups. The panel will discuss the IT regulation rules and some of the recent developments, including the manipulated media controversy, the Twitter’s India officials being questioned by Delhi Police and the intermediary guidelines and their compliance, The Indian Express quoted a source in Parliament as saying.
Union IT & Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently said that India respects privacy, but “one has to give details when terror elements, anti-socials, anti-national are involved.”
A team of Delhi Police Special cell carried out a search at Twitter India office in Delhi in May in connection with an inquiry into a complaint regarding the alleged COVID-19 ‘toolkit’ and sought a clarification from the microblogging site for classifying a related tweet by BJP leader Sambit Patra as “manipulative”.
On May 31, shortly after the Delhi High Court’s observation, Twitter had said that the platform strives to comply with applicable laws in India. Earlier, Twitter has criticised the new IT rules and regulations, saying they “inhibit free, open public conversation”.
The Centre has alleged that Twitter refused to comply with new digital rules requiring identification of the originator of a flagged message and appointing redressal officers and the purported commitment of the US-based firm to India not only sounds hollow but completely self-serving.
“The parliamentary panel will “hear the views of representatives of Twitter followed by evidence of representatives of Ministry of Electronics and IT on the subject safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms, including special emphasis on women security in digital space,” the Express reported.
The IT panel, chaired by Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, is calling Twitter officials for seeking the social media firm’s explanation as well as its views on a range of issues.
Twitter has locked horns with the Indian government since February after the Union technology ministry asked it to block content alleging PM Modi’s administration was trying to silence criticism related to farmers’ protests. The government then announced new rules that aim to make social media firms more accountable to legal requests for swift removal of posts and require the appointment of an Indian grievance officer.
The differences between the government and the firm took yet another turn when Twitter classified some of the posts made by the BJP leaders as “manipulated media”, triggering a sharp response from the government.
The controversy then led to Twitter flagging concerns about freedom of expression and the safety of its staff in India after Delhi Police visited its offices.
Early June, the Centre issued “one last notice” to Twitter over appointing India-based officers as per the country’s new rules for social media companies, failing which, the government said, it will face “consequences” as per the IT Act and other penal laws.