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Twitter Expresses Concerns Over Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Police Intimidation Tactics

Twitter plans to urge amendments to aspects of the regulations "that inhibit free, open conversation" and "strive to comply with applicable law."

Twitter Expresses Concerns Over Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Police Intimidation Tactics

Sentinel Digital Desk

New Delhi: In the midst of its feud with the government over the "Congress toolkit" row, Twitter today broke its silence on new digital restrictions, expressing concern about "the potential threat to freedom of expression" and "the use of intimidation tactics by the police".

According to a sharply worded statement, while the social media giant would "strive to comply with applicable law," it plans to urge amendments to aspects of the regulations "that inhibit free, open conversation."

This is the first time the weblog site has addressed the guidelines requiring social media firms to establish a compliance officer in India, set up a grievance response structure, and remove information within 36 hours of receiving a legal order. WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the government, alleging that the rules are unlawful and infringe on user privacy.

"Twitter is deeply committed to the people of India. Our service has proven vital for the public conversation and a source of support for people during the pandemic. To keep our service 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," said a Twitter spokesperson.

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 spokesperson added.

The government and the police have been watching Twitter since it labelled posts by BJP leaders on an alleged "Congress toolkit" as "manipulated media." The government requested that the tag be removed, and the Delhi Police served notice on Twitter India's offices in Delhi and Gurgaon on Monday evening, demanding an explanation.

The new IT laws, which went into effect on Wednesday, require sites to provide a complaint resolution mechanism and track down the "first originator" of information that threatens "Indian sovereignty, state security, or public order."

If social media sites do not comply, they will be subject to lawsuits and prosecution as "intermediaries." As a result, they can no longer claim legal immunity from user-posted harmful content.

Facebook and Google have stated that they will comply. Facebook also wants to talk about some "issues which need more engagement."

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