Twitter was non-compliant with the IT rules on May 26 when the new regulations came into effect, but the microblogging platform has subsequently appointed a chief compliance officer and a resident grievance officer as a contingent arrangement, Parliament was informed on Thursday.
Twitter has also informed the IT Ministry about its physical contact address in India, and has published a compliance report for June 2021, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.
Chandrasekhar also said the statement made by Twitter earlier in May expressing concerns over potential threat to freedom of expression and staff safety was possibly an effort to divert attention from its non-compliance to IT Rules and Indian laws at that stage.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 notified on February 25, 2021 have become fully effective from May 26, 2021, including for additional due diligence to be followed by Significant Social Media Intermediaries (SSMIs), he said.
“On that day, Twitter was non-compliant. Subsequently, they have appointed Chief Compliance Officer and a Resident Grievance Officer as a contingent arrangement and have also informed the Ministry about physical contact address in India. They have also published the compliance report of June 2021,” he said.
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The minister went on to add that major digital platforms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and WhatsApp, have informed the ministry regarding the appointment of chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and resident grievance officer as well as their physical contact addresses in India.
They have also started publishing a monthly compliance report, he informed the Upper House.
“In case of non-compliance with the Rules, the intermediaries including SSMIs shall lose their exemption from liability under section 79 of IT Act and rule 7 of the above said rules becomes applicable,” Chandrasekhar said.
On a question about Twitter’s statement on May 27 airing concerns over potential threat to freedom of expression and safety of its employees in India, Chandrasekhar asserted that freedom of speech and expression is a constitutionally guaranteed Fundamental Right and the company’s statement was “possibly an effort to divert the attention” from the non-compliance to the Information Technology rules.
“The statement of Twitter was possibly an effort to divert the attention from the non-compliance to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 and Indian laws at that stage,” he said.
The minister emphasised that the government is committed to the growth of a vibrant technology and internet ecosystem in the country.
“Government has also assured that representatives of social media platforms, including Twitter, remain safe in India and there is no threat to their personal safety and security,” he pointed out.
To another question on whether the government would reconsider the guidelines that suggest indirectly the breaking of end-to-end encryption of messages, Chandrasekhar said the rules “do not seek breaking the end-to-end encryption”.
Neither the IT Act nor the new social media rules contravene freedom of speech and expression or right to privacy, he added.