Global internet and social media behemoths like Google, Facebook, and WhatsApp, which have complied with India’s new IT laws, are continuing to negotiate with the government in order to get some controversial provisions removed, sources said.
According to insiders, these firms are pushing for the elimination of certain sections, particularly one that puts personal criminal culpability on the chief compliance officer of a major social media intermediary.
“We, along with the other companies and trade bodies, have made clear our concerns regarding the potential impositions of criminal liability on company employees and will continue to engage with the Indian government to try and address these concerns,” said one person cited above.
These rules went into force on May 26th, soon after These big global internet companies started complying with India’s new intermediary laws, prompting this continuing dialogue with the government.
For this article, Facebook and WhatsApp didn’t make any comments.
Google, according to a spokesperson, respects India’s legislative process and has previously complied with government requests to delete information that breaches local laws.
“If there is a local law, we have to comply and then engage with the government. It is a constant dialogue to resolve issues,” an executive of a technology major said.
Industry groups are also urging the government to complete and publish standard operating procedures (SOPs) for relevant legislation, claiming that doing so will assist in guarantee that proper processes are followed.
“The SOPs or guidelines will add safeguards for employees and help in building confidence for such officers in India,” sources said.
Companies with more than five million registered users are classified as “major social media intermediaries” under the new intermediary regulations, which require them to hire three senior executives located in India: a nodal, a grievance, and a chief compliance officer.
“The problem now is that these rules have reiterated criminal liability and the removal of the statutory exemption from legal liability in crystal clear terms. Earlier it was left to subjective interpretations,” senior Supreme Court lawyer Pavan Duggal said.
“The kind of honeymoon period that these service providers and intermediaries were enjoying in India, from 2008 when the amendments came across until 2021, is now gone,” he further added.
Twitter’s inability to hire a chief compliance officer has resulted in a legal battle with the government. Noncompliance, according to official sources, has likely resulted in Twitter losing its intermediary status, as well as the associated safe harbors from criminal responsibility for information uploaded on its site.
According to a source close to the situation, Twitter has provided the details to the government of the appointed interim chief compliance officer. Despite the impasse, the business continues to interact with the government.
Twitter refused to respond.
Industry groupings have petitioned the government to remove the law’s contentious clauses which include the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), along with the US-India Business Council (USIBC) and the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF)