Twitter asked to comply with EC norms, ensure no bias during polls

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Updated: February 26, 2019 7:23:08 AM

The committee members posed several questions related to fake news, foreign interference through social media platforms, role during elections, etc.

Twitter failed to answer several questions, following which the committee gave it 10 days to submit in writing their responses. (Reuters)

Top officials from the microblogging site, Twitter, who met members of the parliamentary standing committee on Monday, have been asked to “strictly comply” with Election Commission of India’s (ECI) guidelines and to ensure that there is “no bias” on the platform during the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the dates for which are scheduled to be announced early next month.

During the over three-hour-long meeting, which included Twitter’s global vice-president for public policy Colin Crowell and other senior company officials, the committee members posed several questions related to fake news, foreign interference through social media platforms, role during elections, etc., sources said.

A senior official said the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT chairman, Anurag Thakur, got a personal letter from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, which was read out during the meeting.

“In the letter, Dorsey thanked the committee for the opportunity to present Twitter’s views on important issues relating to safeguarding citizens rights online in India,” he added.

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Thakur allowed Crowell to represent Twitter during the hearing based on Jack Dorsey’s written letter. The social media platform was given “strict unanimous instructions” to ensure against any bias and to follow ECI’s directives by responding in real time. Committee also conveyed in the “strictest of terms” that there must be no foreign interference through advertising or fake news.

Twitter failed to answer several questions, following which the committee gave it 10 days to submit in writing their responses. The company was also conveyed that it can be summoned again if the committee is not satisfied with those responses.

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Another senior official said that one of the committee members raised the issue of whether social media platforms should be asked to follow ECI directives during elections, like the silent period, wherein no person is allowed to propagate any election matter to the public in any polling area for 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of the poll. “This issue is likely to be discussed at a later date,” he added.

Twitter has also agreed to appoint a nodal officer to work with ECI on issues that arise during the Lok Sabha elections. Thakur has also asked Twitter officials to “engage more” with the ECI and address issues on a “real-time” basis.

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Meanwhile, Thakur said that regarding safeguarding of citizen’s rights on social media and online news media platforms, the committee has asked Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram to present their position on March 6.

Facebook and its other two arms are likely to be represented by Facebook’s vice-president (Global Public Policy) Joel Kaplan, Facebook India managing director Ajit Mohan and other senior officials including India’s director for public policy.

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