The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology has summoned officials of Facebook India and Google India on Tuesday to discuss rights of social media users and prevention of misuse of the platforms. The parliamentary panel is headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
The listed agenda mentioned in the official circular of the meeting states: “To hear the views of representatives of Facebook India and Google India on the subject ‘safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space.”
Earlier this month, the panel had met representatives of Twitter India for a discussion on the same agenda. Twitter officials were told that the social media platform should abide by Indian laws, PTI reported, citing unidentified sources. Twitter India’s public policy manager Shagufta Kamran and legal counsel Ayushi Kapoor reportedly deposed before the parliamentary panel.
The panel’s meetings with social media companies amid a tussle between them and the Centre on the new information technology rules.
Uttar Pradesh Police have also named Twitter in a first information report for not removing posts about the assault of an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad district on June 5. The company has been booked for “intent to a riot, promoting enmity and criminal conspiracy”. The Ghaziabad Police have sent a legal notice to Twitter India Managing Director Manish Maheshwari in the case. However, the Karnataka High Court has barred Uttar Pradesh Police from taking any coercive action against him.
Union Information Technology Minister has even indicated that Twitter has lost its “intermediary status” due to non-compliance of the new social media rules. However, there has been no official confirmation on the matter yet.
During the panel’s meeting with Twitter officials, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey reportedly raised question over neutrality of fact-checks on the social media platform and claimed that many of them are not “politically neutral”. In May, the Indian government had criticised Twitter’s decision to label a tweet by Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra as “manipulated media”.
New IT rules
The new information technology rules are a sweeping set of regulations – which were announced in February and became effective in May – framed to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content, virtually bringing them, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision.
The rules require these platforms to appoint chief compliance officers, in order to make sure the rules are followed, nodal officers, to coordinate with law enforcement agencies, and grievance officers. It also requires social media platforms with over 50 lakh users to help in identifying the “originator” of messages upon the government’s request.