The government on Saturday sent a final notice to Twitter to comply with its new information technology rules, ANI reported. It asked the social media giant to appoint India-based officers, warning that failure to do so will lead to “unintended consequences”.
A sweeping set of rules were issued on February 25 to regulate social media companies, streaming and digital news content. The new rules virtually bring these platforms, for the first time, under the ambit of government supervision.
Among other things, the “Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021” regulations require these platforms to appoint chief compliance officers, in order to make sure the rules are followed, nodal officers, to coordinate with law enforcement agencies, and grievance officers. It also requires social media platforms with over 50 lakh users to help in identifying the “originator” of messages upon the government’s request.
“As a 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with the rules, failing which the exemption from liability available under section 79 of the IT Act, 2000, shall stand withdrawn and Twitter shall be liable for consequences as per the IT Act and other penal laws of India,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said on Saturday.
It added that the grievance and nodal officers appointed by the company are not employees of Twitter India. “The officer 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 notice said.
The government said May 26 was the last day for all social media companies to comply with the regulations. “The refusal to comply demonstrates Twitter’s lack of commitment and efforts towards providing a safe experience for the people of India on its platform,” it added. “Despite being operational in India for more than a decade, it is beyond belief that Twitter Inc has doggedly refused to create mechanisms that will enable people of India to resolve their issues on the platform in a timely and transparent manner...”
The notice, issued to Jim Baker, Twitter’s deputy general counsel and vice president, legal, came the same day when the company briefly removed the blue check mark from the personal handle of India’s Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu. This blue tick, displayed on a user’s profile, is viewed as an indicator of legitimacy.
On Monday, the Delhi High Court had said that Twitter has to comply with the new regulations if they have not been stayed. The petitioner, Amit Acharya, alleged that he found certain “defamatory and false” posts while scrolling through the platform on May 26, but when he tried to file a complaint, he could not find the resident grievance redressal officer’s details on Twitter’s page.
Last week, Twitter had said it was concerned about the “potential threat” to freedom of expression as India’s new social media rules came into effect. The company had added that it will “strive to comply with applicable law” in India, but will be strictly guided by the principals of transparency.
Hitting back at Twitter, the Centre had said that the social media platform needed to stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land.