The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has clarified the government never threatened employees of any social media platform. "None of the government communications, either written or oral, have ever threatened the employees of any of the social media platforms of jail term," MeitY said.
Reacting to reports that suggest Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter employees being threatened with jail term, the IT Ministry said social media platforms are "obliged to follow the laws of India and the Constitution of India, just like all other businesses in India have to."
"As has been conveyed on the floor of Parliament, users of social media can criticise the government, the Prime Minister or any Minister but promotion of violence, rampant communal divide and stoking the flames of terrorism will have to be reflected upon," MeitY said, as per PTI.
The IT Ministry said the recent guidelines on social media platforms simply require them to put in place a robust grievance redressal mechanism for its users.
"The government welcomes criticism and dissent. However, of late, repeated instances of abuse of social media to foment hate, discord and violence by terrorist groups from outside India and circulation of morphed images of women, revenge porn posing threat to the safety of users especially women users have become grave concerns."
Recently, the Centre had issued a notice to social media giant Twitter to take down hundreds of posts, accounts and hashtags that were spreading fake news and inflammatory speech on farmers' protests in the country.
Twitter initially did not fully comply but fell in line after the government showed the rule book that contained penal provisions. The IT ministry said Twitter is an intermediary and is obliged to obey "the direction of the government and refusal to do so will invite penal action under Section 69A of the Act".
The government's response came after Twitter "unilaterally" unblocked over 250 such accounts despite blocking them after the government's advice on January 1.
The new guidelines state the government wants social media companies to have a mechanism to address complaints from users and asks them to push a monthly compliance report as well. It wants social media intermediaries to have the following:
- Chief Compliance Officer - who shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and Rules
- Nodal Contact Person - for 24x7 coordination with law enforcement agencies
- Resident Grievance Officer - who shall perform the functions mentioned under the Grievance Redressal Mechanism