‘Comply with new rules or lose safe harbour: Govt to Twitter
The ministry of electronics and information technology on Saturday sent a sternly-worded letter to microblogging platform Twitter to share compliance details with the new intermediary guidelines, all clauses of which came into effect on May 25, saying that Twitter’s refusal to follow the rules demonstrates a “lack of commitment towards providing a safe experience to the people of India”.
“Despite being in operation in India for over a decade, it is beyond belief that Twitter Inc. has doggedly refused to create mechanisms that will enable the people of India to resolve their issues on the platform in a timely and transparent manner and through fair processes,” the ministry has stated in its letter. “Users who are abused on the platform or are harassed or are subject to defamation or specula abuse or become victims go a whole range of other abusive contacts must get a redressal mechanism that the same people of India have created through a due process of law.”
The ministry has, as a “gesture of goodwill”, given Twitter one last notice to immediately comply with the new rules or lose the exemption from criminal liability available to the social media intermediary under section 79 of the Information Technology Act. Section 79 provides Twitter safe harbour or protection against any kind of criminal action for third party content posted on the platform.
The government has threatened that non-compliance with the new guidelines will result in the platform being criminally liable for third party content posted on it.
The central government has given Twitter one last chance to comply with the new guidelines notified on February 25, which direct companies such Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook to regulate content, appoint officers who will be liable for compliance, and adopt features such as traceability of messages and voluntary user verification.
The government has been in a standoff with the microblogging platform since last week when Twitter raised concerns regarding “intimidation tactics by the police” and with the “core elements” of the new social media and intermediary guidelines. Twiter’s statement prompted a strong response from the government which called the remarks an “attempt to dictate its terms”.
In a letter addressed to Jim Baker, the ministry has expressed its “dismay” over Twitter’s response to its communications indicating that it has not fully complied with the new rules. The ministry had sought details of the compliance officer, grievance redressal officer and nodal contact person from all significant social media intermediaries (which have 50 lakh users or above) on May 26. While Twitter shared the details of the last two, naming an India-based attorney, it did not share details of a compliance officer with the government.
Twitter declined to comment.
The ministry in its letter has stated that the platform has not informed about the details of the chief compliance officer and that the nodal contact person and resident grievance officer appointed by Twitter is not an employee of Twitter Inc. in India, as prescribed by the rules. It has further added that the address shared by Twitter is that of a law firm, which also is not in consonance with the new guidelines.