In a stinging rebuttal to Twitter on its comments on a ‘potential threat to freedom of expression’ in India, the Centre on Thursday told the microblogging site to stop beating around the bush and comply with the new rules laid down by the Ministry of Electronics and Information and Technology.
Terming Twitter’s concerns baseless, false and an attempt to defame India, the ministry in a statement said, “Twitter needs to stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land. 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.”
“India has a glorious tradition of free speech and democratic practices dating back centuries. Protecting free speech in India is not the prerogative of only a private, for profit, foreign entity like Twitter, but it is the commitment of the world’s largest democracy and its robust institutions,” the Centre said in a statement.
Responding to Twitter’s worry about its employees following a visit of the Delhi police to two of its offices recently, the government assured 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.”
Taking a further dig at the social media giant, the statement said that it is not the government, but Twitter itself which is muzzling free speech through its opaque policies.
“The government of India respects the right of people to ask questions and also criticize on these social media platforms including on twitter. The government equally respects the right of privacy. However, 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,” the government said.
Twitter on Thursday, while stating that it will try to comply with the new laws in the country, had raised concerns over “elements that inhibit free, open conversation”.
“To keep our services available, we will strive to comply with applicable law in India. 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,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
“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 regard 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 Rule,” the spokesperson added.
The new IT Rules, require social media intermediaries like Facebook and Twitter to appoint a compliance officer who is responsible to ensure the Act and rules are followed, and will have to take down objectionable post within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.