Google chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said that the Internet search giant is prepared to comply with Indian laws and all government requests. Pichai’s comments come at a time when social media platforms including Twitter and WhatsApp have publicly challenged the new information technology (IT) rules for intermediaries in India.
“We always respect local laws in every country we operate in and we work constructively. We have clear transparency reports, when we comply with government requests, we highlight that in our transparency reports,” Pichai said in a press conference with Indian media on 28th May.
Pichai however, pointed out that although Google is ready to comply with new legislations, there could be “push back” against legislation processes if needed. “It’s a balance we have struck around the world,” he said.
“As a company, we are very clear about the values of a free and open internet and the benefits it brings and we advocate for it, and we engage constructively with regulators around the world, and we participate in these processes, I think it’s a part of how we learn,” Pichai noted during the press conference.
He added that Google expects governments to rightfully scrutinise and adopt new regulatory frameworks from time to time, and that this is the natural part of the law making process.
“Be it Europe with copyright directive or India with information regulation etc, we see it as a natural part of societies figuring out how to govern and adapt themselves in this technology-intensive world,” he added.
The Indian government’s IT Rules of 2021 for intermediaries such as Google, Facebook, and WhatsApp that came into effect on May 26 have faced pushback from certain players.
WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over the new intermediately policies stating that it would have to break its encryption in order to comply with certain aspects of the new law. WhatsApp has particularly raised objection over the clause that requires social media companies to share details of the “first originator of information” when authorities demand it.
Notably, social media giant Facebook, and home-grown social media platform Koo are the only few intermediaries that have complied with the country’s IT Rules.
Apart from this, allegations of Twitter avoiding compliance with the new IT laws have also surfaced. On 28th May, a petition was filed in the Delhi High Court against the microblogging website over non-compliance with the new laws. The plea was filed by Amit Acharya, a practising advocate at the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court, through advocates Akash Vajpai and Manish Kumar. The petition stated that Acharya came across “defamatory, false and untrue” tweets on Twitter on May 26 and wanted to raise the issue with the Resident Grievance Officer, whose appointment has been mandated under the new IT Rules 2021.
Twitter is embroiled in a legal tussle with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Indian government, after it flagged a tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as ‘manipulated media’ on May 21. In that tweet, Patra had portrayed that an alleged toolkit prepared by the Indian National Congress to amplify the support given to Covid patients was merely a PR gimmick. India’s ministry of electronics and IT (Meity) had reportedly asked Twitter to remove the “manipulated media” tag attached to Patra’s post.
A few days later, Twitter India’s offices in Delhi’s Lado Sarai and Gurugram were raided by a special team of Delhi Police. Notably, the Delhi Police comes under the jurisdiction of the central government of India, which is led by the BJP. The microblogging platform has also raised redflags over “the use of intimidation tactics by the police”.