Amid stand-off with govt, Twitter shares details of interim compliance officer

On Wednesday Twitter shared the government’s details of an interim law enforcement official who had appointed him as the new social media directorate that went into effect on May 26, said people familiar with the matter.

The move comes after Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad attacked the company for deliberately choosing not to follow the guidelines while officials said Twitter would lose its legal protection in penalties for content content by third parties for non-compliance with the law.

HT accessed electronics and information technology services with comments but did not receive immediate response. There was no immediate response from Twitter.

The official told HT separately that Twitter would be considered a liaison if it followed the new Information Technology (IT) rules. The official said Twitter would no longer be protected from sentencing proceedings under Section 79 of the IT Act, which exempts social media companies from being charged with third party content, if they do not.

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) were announced in February. They need strong communications mediators, with five million or more users, to appoint a law enforcement officer, a chief executive officer and a grievance redressal officer. As of Wednesday, Twitter was the only major communications company that had not yet commented on the details of compliance. WhatsApp, Facebook and Google shared the information in May.

Twitter on Tuesday said it had appointed an interim policy manager and details of the appointments would be shared directly with the department. The decision came after the government gave Twitter one last chance to comply with the new rules as the microblogging platform did not immediately hire key staff, authorized under the new guidelines.

Twitter assured the government last week that it was in the process of finalizing the appointment of a compliance chief executive and would send more details within a week.

Twitter this month referred to the government as “committed to complying with the new rules”, despite voicing concerns about the safety of its employees in the country and intimidation by the police. It demanded a week’s compliance with the new guidelines after the government issued a ruling that Twitter would have to face “unintended consequences” including the loss of its legal protection from criminal responsibility for user content.

The guidelines also require companies such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook to change the way they manage content and use features such as message tracking and voluntary user verification.

Twitter and the government have been at loggerheads over orders to reduce the company’s content and actions to key individuals linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for violating its terms of use.

Contrary to what has happened in the past, new IT rules made it difficult to suspend it last month, and Twitter had earlier asked for three months to comply, raising concerns about “key” issues, and warned of possible threats to the safety of its employees after visits by Delhi police.

The new rules have been challenged by many parties, including WhatsApp which argued that the provision of authorized compliance with the guidelines could violate end-user encryption.

Raman Chima, Asia Pacific’s director of policy, Access Now, a digital human rights organization, said the government was simply not able to monitor how mediators were able to use the legal protection afforded by Parliament. “Whether government laws are in line with the Constitution and whether partial or partial roadblocks have an effect on the legal protection provided by law will ultimately be decided by the judges, not just by the highest authority.”

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