Hardening its stance, the government on Saturday issued a final notice to microblogging website Twitter, providing it one last possibility to comply with the new Information Technology Rules, warning of ‘unintended consequences’ that could lead the organization to drop exemption from liability as an intermediary, and action against it below Rule 7 of the new guidelines.
The government has mentioned although the new guidelines came into force from May 26, “as gesture of goodwill, Twitter Inc is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the rules, failing which the exemption from liability available under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000, shall stand withdrawn and Twitter shall be liable for consequences as per the IT Act and other penal laws of India”.
In the letter addressed to Twitter’s deputy basic counsel Jim Baker, the ministry of electronics and data technologies (Meity) also mentioned, “It is clear from responses that till date Twitter has not informed about the details of the chief compliance officer as requested under the Rules. Further, resident grievance officer and nodal contact person nominated by you is not an employee of Twitter Inc in India as prescribed in the Rules. The office address of Twitter Inc as mentioned by you is that of a law firm in India, which is also not as per the Rules.”
The new guidelines for social media firms, which involves intermediaries, social media intermediaries and important social media intermediaries, came into force from May 26, following which Meity had asked all firms to submit their compliance. Among other needs below the new guidelines, social media firms, based upon the category they fall below, have to appoint chief compliance officer, grievance officer, nodal get in touch with particular person, and so on. While some other firms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, WhatsApp, Koo, Sharechat, and so on, have complied, Twitter has not carried out so. Twitter has been categorised as a important social media intermediary.
Meity’s letter sent on Saturday mentions that it has written two comparable letters to Twitter in the previous — on May 26 and May 28 — in search of compliance of the guidelines, but did not acquire a satisfactory response. “Meity is dismayed to note that your responses to the ministry’s letter neither address the clarifications sought by the ministry nor indicates full compliance with the Rules,” the letter has stated.
Non-compliance with the guidelines can lead social media firms like Twitter to drop exemption from liability as offered below Section 79 of the IT Act. The consequences of losing such cover and non-compliance of any portion of the guidelines empowers the government to initiate criminal action against the organization concerned below Rule 7. This new rule, which is a new insertion, offers with the non-observance of the guidelines, and states, “Where an intermediary fails to observe these rules, the provisions of sub-section (1) of Section 79 of the Act shall not be applicable to such intermediary and the intermediary shall be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force, including the provisions of the Act and the Indian Penal Code.”
Even just before the new IT guidelines came into force, the government and Twitter have been at loggerheads more than the latter not complying with a path of removing ‘manipulated media’ tag from some tweets of BJP leaders on an alleged Congress toolkit used to target the Centre more than its Covid-19 handling.
Following a pay a visit to by the Delhi Police officials to its offices to apparently serve a notice with regards to investigation in the matter, Twitter on May 27 via a statement had raised issues about its compliance officer getting made criminally liable for content on the platform, the needs for proactive monitoring and the blanket authority to seek data about its customers. It mentioned this represents harmful overreach that is inconsistent with open, democratic principles. However, the government strongly rebutted Twitter’s allegations and accused it of undermining the country’s laws that aim at defending it from criminal liability. The government had also accused Twitter of attempting to dictate terms to it.