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Rule of land supreme, not your policy: Parliamentary panel on IT to Twitter

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New Delhi, June 18: Amid a tussle between the Union government and Twitter over the new IT rules, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT on Friday told the US-based social media giant that the rule of the land was supreme and the company must abide by the Indian laws.

Twitter

During a 90-minute deposition before the panel, chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, the Twitter India officials were asked "tough and searching questions", including why the company should not be fined as it has been found "violating" rules of the country, sources said.

Officials from Twitter India appear before Parliamentary Panel headed by Shashi TharoorOfficials from Twitter India appear before Parliamentary Panel headed by Shashi Tharoor

Twitter India's public policy manager Shagufta Kamran and legal counsel Ayushi Kapoor deposed before the parliamentary panel. Later in a statement, a Twitter Spokesperson said the company "stands prepared to work with the Committee on the important work of safeguarding citizens' rights online in line with our principles of transparency, freedom of expression, and privacy."

"We will also continue working alongside the Indian Government as part of our shared commitment to serve and protect the public conversation", the spokesperson said while appreciating the opportunity to share views of Twitter before the Standing Committee on Information Technology.

BJP MPs --Nishikant Dubey, Rajyawardan Rathore, Tejasvi Surya, Sanjay Seth, Zafar Islam, Subhash Chandra-- were among those present during the meeting while from the opposition there were TMC MP Mahua Moitra and TDP MP Jaidev Galla apart from Tharoor.

During the meeting, panel members mostly from ruling BJP asked Twitter officials whether their policy is more important or rule of land, to which officials responded that they respect the Indian laws but they have to follow their policy as well for larger interest, sources said.

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The panel members took strong objection to Twitter stance and categorically told them that the rule of land is supreme not the company policy, sources said. As per sources, there was unanimity in the panel that the Twitter should abide by IT rules and appoint chief compliance officer. "The answers (by Twitter officials) lacked clarity and were ambiguous", a source said.

It was also raised by the MPs in the meeting that instead of appointing a full-time compliance officer, Twitter has appointed an interim officer, who is a lawyer, sources said.

According to sources, Dubey also raised question over neutrality of fact-checks on Twitter and claimed that many of them are not "politically neutral". The parliamentary panel had last week summoned Twitter over issues related to misuse of the platform and protection of citizens' rights.

According to sources, the opposition members opined that another round of meeting should be held with Twitter officials, but the panel has sought written reply from Twitter on various questions. The panel members also held a meeting with Information and Technology Ministry officials after the deposition.

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