New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Breaking its silence on the new IT Rules 2021 imposed on digital platforms in India from May 26, Twitter on Thursday said it will strive to comply with the applicable law in the country and continue constructive dialogue with the government.

The microblogging website, however, also said it planned to ask for changes in the rules to "elements that inhibit free, open conversation".

With the company's statement coming in the midst of its standoff with the government over the 'Congress toolkit' row, Twitter expressed concerns over the "the potential threat to freedom of expression and intimidation tactics by the police in response to giving manipulated media tag to tweets by BJP leader".

The remark was made in reference to the police raids on the company's offices in Delhi and Gurugram in connection with the inquiry in the toolkit case in which Twitter had tagged tweets of BJP leaders Sambit Patra and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat as "manipulative media".

"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," he added.

The government, on the other hand, has reiterated that the new guidelines are designed to curb the misuse of social media and it welcomes criticism, including the right to ask questions. 

While Facebook has said it will comply with the new rules, WhatsApp has approached the Delhi High Court against the guidelines, contending that they are unconstitutional and against user privacy.

What the new IT Rules 2021 state?

On February 25, the government had announced tighter regulations for social media firms, directing them to remove any content flagged by the authorities within 36 hours and setting up a robust compliant redressal mechanism with an officer being based in the country.

Significant social media companies will have to publish a monthly compliance report disclosing details of complaints received and action taken, as also details of contents removed pro-actively.

They will also be required to have a physical contact address in India published on its website or mobile app, or both.

As per data cited by the government, India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 41 crore Facebook subscribers, 21 crore Instagram users, while 1.75 crore account holders are on microblogging platform Twitter.

The new rules were introduced to make social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram -- which have seen a phenomenal surge in usage over the past few years in India -- more accountable and responsible for the content hosted on their platform.

Social media companies will have to take down posts depicting nudity or morphed photos within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.

Notably, the rules require significant social media intermediaries -- providing services primarily in the nature of messaging -- to enable identification of the "first originator" of the information that undermines sovereignty of India, security of the state, or public order.

This could have major ramifications for players like Twitter and WhatsApp. The rules also state that users who voluntarily want to verify their accounts should be given an appropriate mechanism to do so, and be accorded a visible mark of verification.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta