06:58 GMT23 June 2021
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    Social networking giants such as Twitter and WhatsApp recently expressed reservations about accepting India’s latest digital laws. Unveiled by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on 25 February, the laws aim to regulate what appears and stays in digital space, to prevent cybercrime and the spread of fake news.

    Twitter on Tuesday agreed to comply with some of India's IT rules by appointing a grievance officer and a nodal officer as part of its operations in the country.

    Citing sources, Indian daily the Times of India reported that the officers will be of Indian origin but will be sent over from the Twitter headquarters in California, US.

    These first steps from Twitter to complying with the digital laws come three days after the Indian government sent the business a letter. Dated 5 June 2021, the letter warned the platform that “non-compliance” with the rules will lead to “unintended consequences".

    Indian tech experts have welcomed Twitter’s decision. Talking to Sputnik, Sahil Chopra, who heads a digital marketing firm in the national capital Delhi, said that the the row between the government and the tech firms needs to end.

    Chopra noted that Indians are confused and worried about losing apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram that were very helpful during the COVID-19 crisis. The government of India, after all, banned more than 250 Chinese apps last year citing national security concerns.

    “Complying with the rules ensures Twitter's continued operations in the country. India gives the platform a huge userbase between 40 million and 60 million users,” Chopra said.

    The industry expert highlighted that the new IT rules are designed to help the government of India “monitor offensive and fake content that may create chaos or unrest”.

    India’s IT rules require social media companies to appoint grievance and nodal officers respectively to deal with user complaints and help law enforcement agencies. YouTube and WhatsApp have also started appointing people to these new roles in their India teams.

    The one IT rule that has worried networking apps is the one which insists that social networking apps help security agencies trace the origin of problematic content on their platform for investigations in very serious cases.

    WhatsApp sued the Indian government in the Delhi High Court, saying the company cannot violate user privacy policy. Twitter has also expressed reservations against this rule, saying it is concerned about the “threat to freedom of expression” in the country.

    Talking to Sputnik, senior cyber analyst Achen Jakher said that although companies are ensuring the safety and security of their subscribers, governments around the world, including India, are becoming uncomfortable with not being able to monitor the activities of their target individuals or groups.

    “But they want to make sure they get information if someone is planning something wicked. I fail to understand what's so wrong with that - after all it is the duty of an elected government to ensure the safety of its citizens,” Jaker noted.

    Tech analysts have advised all the apps to comply with the IT laws as soon as possible to avoid any reprisals. The deadline to comply with the IT laws was 25 May, and has been extended for a while. The government is awaiting compliance reports from these social networking apps.

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