Former IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday commended his successor Ashwini Vaishnaw for “firmly reiterating the new IT Rules (which critics say violates social media users’ rights) … empower safety and security of users”.
Mr Prasad – who fought Twitter over compliance issues till he was replaced last week – also offered the social media giant a scrap of praise, saying it was “assuring to note… has taken some steps to comply with the new rules”.
“Greetings to the new IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw for firmly reiterating that the new IT Rules are designed to empower the safety and security of users against misuse and redress their grievances. Assuring to note that Twitter too has taken some steps to comply with the new rules,” he said.
Greetings to the new IT Minister @AshwiniVaishnaw for firmly reiterating that the new IT Rules are designed to empower the safety & security of users against misuse and redress their grievances. Assuring to note that Twitter too has taken some steps to comply with the new Rules.
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) July 12, 2021
On Sunday Mr Vaishnaw – one of several new faces in the union cabinet – said he had “reviewed implementation and compliance of” the IT Rules.
He posted the message only on Koo – the made-in-India Twitter alternative.
“Reviewed the implementation and compliance of Information Technology Rules, 2021 along with my colleague Shri Rajeev Chandrasekharji (the junior IT Minister). These guidelines are empowering and protecting users and will ensure a safer and responsible social media ecosystem in India,” he wrote.
Last week Mr Vaishnaw – a technocrat drafted in, some believe, to amicably resolve the dispute – picked up where Mr Prasad left off – warning Twitter about the “law of the land is supreme”.
Twitter has been targeted by the government for failing to appoint a chief compliance officer within the time prescribed. Yesterday the company made an interim appointment, after it told the Delhi High Court last week told that a permanent appointee will be named within eight weeks.
The government has declared that as a result Twitter no longer enjoys legal protection; a fact highlighted by four police cases filed since, including one about the assault of a Muslim man that names Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari.
The new IT rules are scheduled to come into effect on May 25.
Among other provisions, they require social media platforms (with over 50 lakh users), online news publishers and OTT platforms to appoint India-based grievance officers and follow government directives on take-down of “offensive” content.
Critics say the rules violate right to privacy and freedom of expression. News publishers say it infringes on the press’ freedom, and will allow the government a far tighter grip over online news content.
Last month United Nations special rapporteurs also expressed concern; they said the rules did not conform with international human rights norms and were worried it could curb free speech.
The government dismissed their fears as “exaggerated and disingenuous”.
The rules have been challenged by Facebook-owned WhatsApp (which is required to break end-to-end encryption of messages and identify original senders to comply with the rules) and several news publishers, including the country’s largest news agency – Press Trust of India.
Last week the News Broadcasters Association scored a temporary win after the Kerala High Court said no coercive action could be taken against its members over non-compliance with the new rules.
With input from PTI