Govt warns Twitter of strict action if it fails to check hate messages



Twitter was Monday pulled up by the government for being “slow” in removing objectionable or unlawful content which has allegedly aided the spread of hate messages and rumours inciting violence and crime against women and was warned of strict legal action if it failed to comply with the directives of law enforcement agencies, officials said.

Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba also directed Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, policy and trust and safety lead, and Mahima Kaul, Head Public Policy, Twitter India, to ensure a round-the-clock mechanism for prompt disposal of requisitions of law enforcement agencies.

At a meeting, which was held here “for effective action” against objectionable contents, the officials from the microblogging site were told that in some cases Twitter has been “slow” in removing or blocking objectionable or unlawful content, a home ministry official said.

The compliance for removal of unlawful content has only been about 60 per cent even where orders have been issued by the competent authority after following due process of law.

The home secretary asked Gadde and Kaul to ensure a 24×7 mechanism for prompt disposal of requisitions of law enforcement agencies for deletion or removal of unlawful or objectionable content from their platform.

The Twitter representatives were also advised to appoint India-based contact persons who would be available round-the-clock and to put in place an escalation mechanism to deal with requisitions of law enforcement agencies and general public for prompt removal of unlawful or objectionable content, the official said.

In the recent past, some objectionable content which could potentially disrupt public peace or law and order and incite criminal offences, including communal violence, has been posted on Twitter.

Some of these cases were brought to the notice of the home ministry.

Action was taken for removal of such content after the intervention of the home ministry and the Delhi Police.

During the meeting, it was impressed upon Twitter representatives that they should improve their system of response to investigation-related legal requests of law enforcement agencies under the provisions of the Criminal Penal Code and other laws.

They were told that law provides for strict legal provisions in case of non compliance which would need to be invoked, the official said.

During the meeting, specific instances of legal requisitions were shown where the Delhi Police had sought removal of content openly inciting violence but Twitter’s response had been neither “full nor timely”.

Specific legal notices issued by the Delhi Police seeking investigation-related information were also shared with them.

Asked for its comment, Twitter said in a statement that as a global company, it exercises due diligence to respect local laws in jurisdictions around the world and duly reviews all legal process.

“Twitter has dedicated contact channels for law enforcement and we respond to legal process issued in compliance with applicable law… Twitter is committed to working with governments around the world, including in India, to encourage healthy behaviour on the platform,” it said.

A series of meetings have been held with all social media platforms including Facebook, You Tube, WhatsApp and Twitter to sensitise them about preventive and other actions to remove unlawful content immediately, another official said.

Gauba had held meetings with social media platforms in June and October, 2018. A series of meetings have been conducted by senior officers of the home ministry, Delhi Police and police officers of other states to sensitise the country representatives of social medial platforms about gravity of unlawful or objectionable content posted on their platforms, and their possible consequences.

A number of cases have come to the fore in the recent past where social media platforms were used to spread hate messages and rumours inciting violence, including against women, but internet giants — most of them headquartered outside India — have been allegedly resisting sharing of customer details and message trails citing privacy issues.

However, some social media firms have said they are taking necessary steps to stop misuse of their platforms for spread of fake news, and rumours and hate messages.