As the conflict between the government of India and Twitter continues over the new Information Technology rules, the Indian officials of the microblogging site were questioned by the Parliamentary Panel on Information Technology on various issues. Not surprisingly, Twitter officials told the panel that its own policies were more important than the laws of India. However, the committee made it clear that the laws of the land are supreme, and the company will have to follow them.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor had summoned the company officials to question them on “Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space.” Accordingly, Twitter India’s Public Policy Manager Shagufta Kamran and legal counsel Ayushi Kapoor appeared before the panel on Friday.
According to reports, when the committee asked what the company follows, Indian law or its own policies, the Twitter officials replied that they follow their own policies, as they are equally important. By this, they implied that they won’t follow Indian laws if they conflict with Twitter policies.
However, the committee members took a strong objection to it, and made it clear that the law of the land is supreme, not their policies.
The committee further asked the company why it should not be fined for violating the rule of the land. To this, the Twitter officials replied that it is following rules and had appointed an interim chief compliance officer. However, that is not as per rules, as the company has appointed an interim officer, while the rules clearly state that the officials must be employees of the company.
Twitter has consistently refused to comply with the IT rules, and due to its failure to appoint statutory officers according to the rules, it has already lost the intermediary status in India. Which means, it has lost the safe harbour given to social media companies, which shields them from any liability arising out of content published on their platforms.
The committee also asked about the position of Twitter India in the company and how much authority the Indian officials have in regard to important policy decisions. This is a very important matter, as the Twitter India officials have been insisting that they have no relations with Twitter Inc, and they are not responsible for actions like censoring content, blocking users etc.
Talking about the meeting with the committee, a spokesperson of Twitter said, “We appreciate opportunity to share our views before Standing Committee on IT. Twitter stands prepared to work with the Committee on important work of safeguarding citizens’ rights online in line with our principles of transparency, freedom of expression, and privacy. We will also continue working alongside the Indian Government as part of our shared commitment to serve and protect the public conversation”.