Google, FB against disclosure of mails with EC

Google, FB against disclosure of mails with EC

Social media platforms, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, have not agreed to share their correspondence with the Election Commission with Right to Information (RTI) applicants as reported by Economic Times.

The correspondence includes those related to concerns over misinformation during general elections and requests for contents to be taken down. Facebook and Google have declined to share information citing privacy concerns. Twitter, Sharechat and Bytedance have not replied to EC's request for consent, the report said. 

"The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) acts as an intermediary and wrote to EC last week stating that the companies had expressed reservations about sharing copies of their correspondence, citing privacy concerns," according to the report. It was responding to the EC’s letter in early May seeking the views of social media companies on whether it could disclose correspondence between them, including takedown requests, to RTI applicants. 

A senior official in EC said that social media platforms have declined the request and they usually don't share third-party information. It was further reported that EC has not decided whether to share information with RTI activists. 

Section 11 of the RTI Act, which lists the procedure for disclosing third-party information, states that to disclose any information or record, or part thereof on a request made under this Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party Public Information Officer needs to decide. It also states that information should be provided except in the case of trade or commercial secrets protected by law, disclosure may be allowed if the public interest in disclosure outweighs in importance any possible harm or injury to the interests of such third party. 

RTI activists say that it is important to share the correspondences of EC with social media platforms as it also impacts the users. 

“The Election Commission of India is a public body and must provide reasons publicly for its decisions and rulemaking. Relying on provisions of confidentiality and third-party information is an absurd interpretation of the RTI Act, which severely undermines transparency,” said Apar Gupta, executive director of Internet Freedom Foundation, one of the RTI applicants in conversation with ET.