Less than a fortnight after India changed its Information Technology Rules asking social media companies to be more transparent with government authorities, Twitter has said it’s looking for an executive to liaison with India’s government officials.
“You will be responsible for developing and fostering our strategic relationships with law enforcement and government agencies in India, guided at all times by our mission to defend and respect the voices of our users in India,” the job posting on Twitter’s career page stated.
On February 25 this year, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology amended the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The new law mandates social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube to identify and inform the government of the origin of messages posted on their respective platforms, and if asked, to remove certain content within 36 hours.
A person who liaisons with the Indian government on behalf of a leading e-commerce company, told KrASIA, that Twitter is looking for someone who can quickly follow up with government agencies and the company’s internal team regarding orders to takedown posts.
“This person will not be the final authority at Twitter to decide whether to remove the content or not. Twitter is deliberately looking for a lower experienced executive so that if tomorrow something serious happens their leadership positions are not impacted,” the source said.
In its job posting, Twitter said it’s looking for a mid-to-senior-career professional person with a minimum of six years of experience in working with law enforcement agencies in India.
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Several proponents of freedom of speech in the country said the new law will weaken the freedom of expression of social media users.
However, India’s officials have maintained their stance that these changes are made to fight the increasing menace of fake news that many a times result into communal riots as well as keep unlawful posts related to child sexual abuse in check.
The changes in IT rules were made on the heels of farmers protests that are going on in the country after the central government made three key changes in its farm laws. Many of these protests in India’s different cities were organized via social media platforms including WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook.
Early in February, India had asked Twitter to remove over 250 accounts and posts alleged to have links to these protests. While the micro-blogging platform temporarily blocked those accounts, it soon reinstated them citing free speech. The government wrote to the company saying Twitter is bound by the Indian laws and must abide by them.
“You are aware of the prevailing situation, which not only has the potential, but has in fact, resulted into a major public order issue [violence] on 26.01.2021 [during the farmer tractor rally on Republic Day]. The statutory authorities are doing everything possible to ensure that no adverse public order situation takes place and no cognizable offenses are committed,” the notice said.
The new law enforces social media platforms to comply with government directives in the future. However, revealing information of users and the first-origin of messages will weaken the end-to-end encryption offered by social media majors like WhatsApp and Telegram. WhatsApp has over 530 million users in India, while Telegram has 115 million active users in the country.
“Social media is welcome to do business in India…they have got good business and have also empowered ordinary Indians…But it is very important that crores of social media users be given a proper forum for resolution of their grievances in a time bound manner against the abuse and misuse of social media,” IT Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad said during the press conference announcing change in the law.