Twitter is in the process of hiring executives for its troubled Indian office, two months after the platform said it was concerned for the safety of its staff in the country.

According to Reuters, Twitter told a Delhi High Court that it has posted job openings for all three positions needed to comply with India’s new IT rules.

The platform’s Indian unit has already appointed an interim chief compliance officer, and will soon designate two other executives to comply with the country’s new IT rules, Reuters reported.

Intermediary Guidelines

It should be noted that India’s new rules came into force in May, but digital activists are concerned the new rules will curtail online free speech and privacy in India.

India’s new rules (called Intermediary Guidelines) seek to regulated content on social media firms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter etc.

It makes these platforms more accountable to legal requests for the swift removal of posts and sharing details about the originators of messages.

Social media firms and tech giants also have to remove content within 36 hours after an administrative or legal order is issued, under the new rules.

And to make matters worse, their staff can be held criminally liable for failing to comply with the government’s requests.

Yes, Twitter staff in India could face prison if they fail to comply with government requests. No wonder Twitter may be struggling to fill the positions in a timely manner.

The rules also require big social media companies to set up grievance mechanisms for law enforcement complaints, and appoint new executives to co-ordinate with law enforcement.

Twitter had expressed concern about what it called “the potential threat to freedom of expression” when the new rules came into effect.

And it was not alone.

In May WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the Indian Government, arguing that the new rules that require it to make messages “traceable” to external parties are unconstitutional and undermine the fundamental right to privacy.

Staff safety?

In February Twitter had refused an official request to remove over a thousand accounts from its platform.

But in late April Twitter did remove a number of tweets critical of the Indian government’s response to a new wave of Coronavirus infections that had engulfed the country, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

Then in May Indian police visited Twitter’s office in New Delhi, over its labelling of a tweet by a governing party spokesman as “manipulated media.”

Twitter hit back at the time and labelled the visit as a police ‘intimidation tactic’, and said it was now concerned for the safety of its staff in the country.

In June India’s technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad went on to accuse Twitter of deliberately not complying with the country’s new rules.

And last week Twitter was warned it was facing criminal charges in India after the platform published a map that incorrectly showed the turbulent Indian region of Kashmir as a separate country.

Earlier this week the Indian government removed Twitter’s liability protection against user-generated content in India, because it alleged the platform failed to comply with its new IT rules,

Twitter hiring

Now Twitter India has appointed an interim chief compliance officer and will soon designate two other executives for the time being to comply with the country’s new IT rules.

Twitter has posted job openings for all three positions, will try to make an offer of employment within 8 weeks, the company said in the filing seen by Reuters.

The Delhi High Court earlier this week had directed Twitter to inform it by 8 July as to when it will appoint a resident grievance officer in compliance with the new IT Rules, after the microblogging platform submitted that it was in the process of doing so.

Justice Rekha Palli reportedly took exception to the fact the court was not informed that the earlier appointment of the resident grievance officer (RGO) was only on interim basis and that he has already resigned.

The court had pointed out that only an interim RGO was appointed by Twitter and a wrong impression was given to the court on 31 May, as it was not informed that the officer was on interim basis.

“If he went away on 21 June, the least Twitter could do was to appoint another officer in these 15 days since you knew that this matter was coming up for hearing on 6 July,” the judge reportedly said. “We are considered with the compliance. How long does your process take? If Twitter thinks it can take as long it wants in my country, I will not allow that.”

Whether Twitter can hire these executives in such a short timeframe remains to be seen, especially considering the fact that these staff could be held criminally liable for failing to comply with the government’s requests.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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