No relief for Twitter India! The grip is tightening for micro-blogging platforms with each passing day. Today, Delhi High Court came down heavily on Twitter for non-compliance with the recently charted Information Technology Rules that came into effect on May 26, 2021.
The HC made it clear that the government is now free to take any action against Twitter for not adhering to the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code. The single-judge bench has warned Twitter to come back with a convincing response and action plan on 8th July.
For many months Twitter is at loggerhead with the Indian government over the newly drafted IT policy.
Twitter India In Trouble: Big Picture
- Indian government announced new IT rules, especially aiming at social media networks and OTT platforms, early this year.
- Every internet company operating in India was given 3 months to to due diligence and itself compliment with the new IT rules.
- The May 26, 2021 deadline was exhausted and, unlike Facebook and LInkedIn, Twitter failed to comply with the rules and also didn’t appoint any Interim Grievance Officer.
- Due to the non compliance Twitter’s Safe Harbour Immunity status under the IT ACT 2000 is no longer valid.
- The Safe Harbour Immunity allows intermediatory platforms for not being liable for any third party information data or communication link made available or hosted by them. It protects platorms like Twitter or ISPs for not being liable for any punishment if third party (user or customers) misuses their platforms or infrastructure.
- MeITY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) clarified that Twitter is a Significant Social Media Intermediary (SSMI) as defined under Rule 1(1)(v) of the IT Rules 2021.
- Every SSMI is obligated to comply with the new Rules 2021 and due dillignace obligations are to be followed by all intermediaries to avil exemptions from liability under S.79(1) of the IT ACT, 2009.
- As Twitter is no more under immunity, It’s dragged to court for failing to take action against two tweets from Congress MP Mahua Moitra and journalist Swati Chaturvedi.
- Twitter earlier defended itself by saying that tweets are not of a category for which twitter takes action under its policies, rules and ToS.
- Twitter also clarified that it has appointed Resident Grievanmce Officer as directed under Rule 4 of the IR Rules 20021 to stay complied. However, the selected candidate couldn’t join for unknown reasons.
- Twitter India has 18.8 million active users on its platform.
Food For Thought
While Twitter has sought time to revert back as its officer from SF, USA couldn’t join the hearing due to time difference, the Indian court has given time till 8th July 2021 to revert back with the plan.
The issue is widely being debated across media platforms, and the Indian government is also being questioned about its real intention behind such new IT Rules 2021. Many believe that the new IT Rules would be used by the government as ammunition against social media, OTT platforms if they don’t suppress raising voices against the government. The government has refuted such claims and states that such rules are necessary to crack down on fake news and information. However, the drama unfolded in the last few weeks between Twitter and the political leaders, hints a lot about what is cooking behind the scene. Only time will tell whether the new IT Rules are here to make people life easier or to be used against people and eventually squeeze the freedom of speech!