New developments have emerged in the Twitter-Centre row as government sources are claiming that Twitter has lost its legal immunity after failing to comply with the IT Rules 2021. The social media platform was recently sent a ‘last notice’ by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) which said that the notice was sent to Twitter as a gesture of goodwill. Twitter stands as the lone social media platform that has not yet adhered to India’s IT Rules.
Early this year, the IT Rules or the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code were announced by India’s IT ministry in February. On May 25, all social media intermediaries were notified about the deadline for compliance. With each passing week, developments emerged with social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, Google and more agreed to comply with the rules and sought more time.
US based microblogging platform is on its way to lose its status as a social media intermediary and will be considered a publisher. Once the company loses its intermediary status, it will be vulnerable to punishment under the IPC in case a case is filed against the company for any unlawful content that’s on the platform.
Earlier, the platform was under legal protection as per the Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000. The Section 79 of the IT Act states-
“An intermediary shall not be liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him.”
Twitter to be editorially responsible
On June 16, ANI reported that Twitter will be losing its status as an intermediary platform as its not complying with the new guidelines. Citing government sources, ANI reported that-
“This means instead of being considered just a platform hosting content from various users, Twitter will be directly editorially responsible for posts published on its platform.”
Twitter liable for punishment under any Indian law
Further, the news agency also went into some details about the consequences of this development. ANI reported that now if there are any charges against the platform for any alleged unlawful content, the platform shall be treated as a publisher instead of an intermediary. Consequently-
“the platform will be liable for punishment under any law including IT Act, as also the penal laws of the country.”
As of June 16, Twitter remains the only content platform among significant intermediaries with users above 50 lakh that has not appointed the IT Rules appropriated executives despite multiple notices by the Indian government.
Meanwhile, Indian Express reports that the social media platform claims to have been keeping the Indian IT Ministry updated on the due diligence it has been doing on appointing executives at each stage.
The spokesperson of Twitter has also said-
“An interim chief compliance officer has been retained and details will be shared with the Ministry directly soon. Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with the new guidelines.”
Twitter appoints Grievance Officer, Nodal Contact Person
It should be noted that Twitter has announced appointing a grievance officer and a nodal contact person. The company also announced that it was in the process of hiring a CCO (Chief Compliance Officer). But as per Indian Express, the microblogging platform’s appointments of the aforementioned executives were not in accordance to the complete requirements of the IT Rules.
“We sent them (Twitter) last notice on June 5, to which they replied on June 6 that they had appointed a resident grievance officer and a nodal contact person on a contractual basis, and sought one week to appoint a chief compliance officer. It has been more than 10 days since that and there has been no response,”
-a government official was quoted by Indian Express saying.
Update: Twitter hires interim CCO (Chief Compliance Officer)
On Tuesday, the microblogging platform claimed that it has appointed an interim CCO (Chief Compliance Officer). Twitter also said that the details of the said official will soon be shared with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).