Twitter India faced tough questions today including why it had not appointed a Chief Compliance Officer in India as it faced the Shashi Tharoor-led parliamentary committee on IT, sources said. The US-based social media giant was told that “Indian laws are supreme and the company has to abide by them,” sources said.
During a nearly 95-minute deposition before the parliamentary panel, Twitter India officials faced difficult questions from MPs across party lines, sources said.
The two officials who attended the meeting were also told to submit in writing their status in the company and the powers they had in terms of taking important policy decisions.
Twitter is the only major social media site yet to comply with new digital rules in force since May 26. Earlier this week, Twitter said it had appointed an interim Chief Compliance Officer and would later share updates with the government.
The members questioned the officials – Twitter’s Public Policy Manager Shagufta Kamran and legal counsel Atsushi Kapoor – why a full-time officer had not been appointed till now.
“On many issues, Twitter India officials were vague and evasive,” sources said.
Twitter has been in the government’s crosshairs since it tagged tweets by BJP leaders on an alleged “Congress toolkit” as “manipulated media”. The government sternly asked Twitter to remove the label and last month, the Delhi Police also served notices and travelled to Bengaluru to question Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari.
In today’s meeting, Twitter was asked about its policy of acting on controversial content. “Officials admitted that they promote what they think are healthy Tweets and demote those which were not healthy tweets,” sources said.
An MP reportedly called out the platform saying its approach violated the IT Act.
Twitter representatives had been asked to appear before the panel on the subject of “safeguarding citizens’ rights and preventing misuse of online platforms”.
The questioning by MPs comes at a time when the government has clashed with Twitter over a range of issues.
Government sources said Twitter “has lost the legal shield” as it failed to comply with the new IT rules. Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Twitter was given “multiple opportunities to comply” but it chose the path of “deliberate defiance”.
Twitter also faces charges like inciting communal hate over posts on an assault on a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad on June 5. On Wednesday, Twitter, several journalists and Congress leaders were named in an FIR in Ghaziabad over “provoking communal sentiments” with posts sharing the elderly man’s allegations.
Uttar Pradesh Police has now sent a legal notice to Twitter’s India head and has asked him to report to a police station near the Delhi border and record his statement within seven days, news agency ANI reported.