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Technology

India blasts Twitter for failing to comply with social media rules

IT minister tweets that platform chose to take path of 'deliberate defiance'

Twitter says it has made two of three required appointments and that the final one is in the works, but government officials say none of the appointments will be considered.   © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- Twitter has failed to comply with new information technology rules that India put into effect in late May, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday, slamming the platform for "deliberately" choosing a path of defiance.

The rules, announced in February, require additional due diligence by large social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter; they also require the appointments of a chief compliance officer, "nodal contact person" and resident grievance officer.

Twitter has reportedly filled the positions of resident grievance officer and nodal contact person and is in the process of appointing a chief compliance officer, but The Indian Express newspaper quoted unnamed Indian officials as saying the appointments do not follow the requirements laid out in the guidelines and will therefore not be considered.

The nodal contact person is meant to coordinate with law enforcement agencies around the clock.

In a series of tweets, Prasad wondered whether Twitter is entitled to "safe harbor" protection from penal action for third-party content it hosts. "However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May," he said, without directly mentioning whether Twitter had lost the legal protection.

According to The Indian Express, Twitter as of Tuesday remained the only significant social media platform to not have appointed the required executives, despite government reminders.

"It is astounding that Twitter which portrays itself as the flag bearer of free speech, chooses the path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines," Prasad tweeted, defending the rules as an effort to fight fake news.

"The culture of India varies like its large geography. In certain scenarios, with the amplification of social media, even a small spark can cause a fire, especially with the menace of fake news. This was one of the objectives of bringing the Intermediary Guidelines," he added.

Friction is increasing between India's government and social media companies. WhatsApp is challenging the government in the Delhi High Court over the guidelines. The Facebook-owned company says the rule violates user privacy rights and is unconstitutional. It also complains that they require social media platforms to track information on their sites.

The so-called intermediary guidelines also require the social media purveyors to swiftly remove any content flagged by authorities and to share details about the originators of certain messages. The platforms are required to publish monthly compliance reports as well that should mention details of complaints received, actions taken and details of content proactively removed.

As per Indian government data, WhatsApp has 530 million users in the country, followed by YouTube with 448 million, Facebook with 410 million, Instagram with 210 million and Twitter with 17.5 million.

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