Indian Government gets tough on Twitter, Facebook

India Twitter
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/Files

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) – An Indian parliamentary panel gave Twitter Inc 10 days to file written answers to its questions after meeting on Monday with a senior company officer, part of India’s scrutiny of social media content as it prepares for elections this year.

Speaking after the committee on information technology met with Colin Crowell, Twitter’s global vice president of public policy, panel chairman Anurag Thakur said Crowell and his team had been unable to reply to some questions.

He did not elaborate but said, “We have given them 10 days time to reply in writing”.

Twitter has also been asked to engage more with India’s election commission to ensure the election, which is due by May, is held in a free and fair manner, said Thakur, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. He did not give more details.

According to a source, who declined to be named, Twitter was asked to comply swiftly with any requests from the election commission related to issues such as hate speech or defamatory content on its platform.

The company was asked to appoint an officer to resolve such requests, and Twitter assured the panel it would do so, said the source, who has direct knowledge of the panel’s discussions.

The company was also told to scale up its mechanism to redress grievances, the person said.

Twitter declined to comment.

India, one of the world’s biggest internet markets, proposed rules in late December that would compel platforms such as Facebook, its WhatsApp messenger service and Twitter to remove within 24 hours unlawful content, such as anything that affects the “sovereignty and integrity of India”.

The proposals are under consideration by the technology ministry and have not yet been firmed up into a law.

Twitter and other social media firms have overhauled policies to boost transparency ahead of the general election and rein in misinformation.

The parliamentary panel is due hear from representatives of social media giant Facebook Inc, its messaging services WhatsApp and photo-sharing app Instagram on March 6.

Joel Kaplan, Facebook Inc’s global head of public policy, will represent the company and its units, Facebook said in a statement.

Facebook India head Ajit Mohan and the local public policy head will also attend the meeting, it added.

(Reporting by Nigam Prusty and Sankalp Phartiyal; Additional reporting by Aditya Karla; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Frances Kerry)

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