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Parliamentary panel tells FB, Google to follow new IT Rules; wants Twitter reply on locking accounts of Prasad, Tharoor

Facebook and Google representatives were asked to appear before the Committee to present their views about ‘Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social online news media platforms, including special emphasis on women security in the digital space

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology on Tuesday directed social media company Facebook and search giant Google to comply with the new IT rules, government instructions and court orders.

Facebook told the parliamentary panel chaired by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor that it is difficult for them to implement traceability for WhatsApp as mandated under the new IT rules. They said that the messaging service has not been designed to trace the “first originator” of any message.

ThePrint quoted one of the MPs who attended the meeting as saying, “They said that traceability can’t be an India-specific thing and they have not implemented it anywhere in the world. They further said that the product is end-to-end encrypted. Breaking it will violate users’ privacy.”

The representatives of the internet companies were conveyed that they need to put in place stringent safeguards to protect data privacy and data security of their users as there are loopholes in their existing data protection and privacy policy mechanisms.

The Facebook and Google representatives were asked to appear before the Committee to present their views about ‘Safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social online news media platforms, including special emphasis on women security in the digital space.”

Namrata Singh, Associate General Counsel and Shivnath Thukral, Director of Public Policy, represented Facebook at the meeting.

Google was represented by Aman Jain, its Country Head (Government Affairs and Public Policy) and Gitanjali Duggal, Director (Legal).

On being asked if they feel safe in India, both the internet giants said that they don’t feel intimidated operating in India.

Representatives of YouTube and other social media platforms are also expected to be summoned by the parliamentary Committee soon.

The panel sought within two days the response of microblogging site Twitter regarding locking the handles of IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, news agency ANI reported. The panel’s secretariat had also sent a letter to this effect to the company on the day.

The panel directed its secretariat to seek the company’s reply on the matter in writing within the mentioned time frame.

“Twitter will have to give [a] written answer to the Committee within 48 hours, why and under what rule Twitter blocked Twitter accounts of IT Minister Ravi Shankar Pradesh and senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor,” ANI said, citing unnamed sources.

If the Committee does not receive a satisfactory reply from Twitter, the panel will summon a Twitter official regarding the issue.

Earlier on June 25, Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took to Twitter to announce that his access to his account was denied for a “violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the USA”. The access was later restored.

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