Representational Image. (File photo)
Representational Image. (File photo)

Twitter loses legal protection, fails to comply with new IT rules: Official

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules were notified in February and came into force on May 25
By Deeksha Bhardwaj
PUBLISHED ON JUN 16, 2021 09:55 AM IST

Twitter will be considered an intermediary once it follows the new Information Technology (IT) rules and it will no longer be protected from penal action under Section 79 of the IT Act, which absolves social media firms of liability for third party content, if it did not do so, a government official said on Wednesday.

“Now, if there is a case in court, Twitter cannot seek safe harbour under the Information Technology Act. In any case, filed after May 26, Twitter cannot say it is an intermediary and claim exception.”

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules were notified in February and came into force on May 25.

The official said, as a gesture of goodwill, the government gave Twitter extra time to comply with the rules. But Twitter has failed to meet even its own deadline of a week to make the appointments as per the new rules, the official said. The official added that details of the compliance officer’s appointment were yet to be shared with the government.

Twitter on Tuesday said it has appointed an interim chief compliance officer and the details of the appointment will be shared directly with the IT ministry. The decision came after the government gave Twitter one last chance to comply with the new rules as the microblogging platform did not make immediate appointments of key personnel, mandated under the new guidelines that came into effect on May 26.

Also Read | Interim compliance officer named: Twitter

Twitter assured the government last week that it is in the advanced stages of finalising the appointment of the chief compliance officer and would submit additional details within a week.

A Twitter spokesperson on Tuesday said the company continues to make every effort to comply with the new guidelines and is keeping the IT ministry apprised of progress at every step of the process.

Twitter this month conveyed to the government that it was “committed to complying with the new rules”, even as it raised concerns regarding the safety of its employees in the country and intimidation by the police. It sought a week to comply with the new guidelines after the government issued it an ultimatum saying Twitter would have to face “unintended consequences” that can involve it losing its legal protection from criminal liability for user content.

The guidelines require companies such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook to change how they regulate content, appoint nodal officers for compliance and grievance redressal, and adopt features such as traceability of messages and voluntary user verification.

Twitter and the government have had disagreements over content takedown orders and the company’s actions against prominent people linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for violation of its terms of use.

Against this backdrop, the new IT rules hardened the stand-off last month, with Twitter earlier asking for three months to comply, raising concerns over the “core elements” of the norms, and flagging potential threats to the safety of its employees after a visit by the Delhi Police.

Google, WhatsApp and Facebook have shared the details of the officers with the government. The new rules have been contested by several parties, including WhatsApp which has argued that the traceability provision mandated in the guidelines would violate end to end encryption.

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