Sunday, August 14, 2022

Twitter India given ‘last chance’ to comply

In the notice sent on Monday June 27— which was reviewed by ET— the ministry pointed out that the microblogging platform failed to comply with notices sent on June 6 and June 9. 

 NEW DELHI: The Indian government has given Twitter India “one last opportunity” to comply with the country’s Information Technology Rules by July 4 or risk losing its immunity as an intermediary, according to a report in ET.

The action by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) follows Twitter’s “repeated failures to act on the content take-down notices sent under Section 69 A of the IT Act” as well as on “non-compliance notices issued for not taking the content down,” officials informed ET.

In the notice sent on Monday June 27— which was reviewed by ET— the ministry pointed out that the microblogging platform failed to comply with notices sent on June 6 and June 9. 

“Despite repeated notices and chances being given to them to act, Twitter continues to remain in violation. Therefore, appropriate action is being taken against (it),” s a senior official was quoted saying. The official also said that “all intermediaries that operate in India must follow the IT Rules in letter and spirit”.

MeitY’s notice — addressed to Twitter’s Chief Compliance Officer — states that “if Twitter Inc. continues to be in violation of these Directions and therefore the IT Act, significant consequences under the IT Act shall prevail”.

Twitter could be liable for punishment: This will mean “loss of immunity as available (to) an intermediary under sub-section (1) of section 79 of the IT Act and (will be) liable to punishment to offences as prescribed in the IT Act 2000”.

It was not clear which specific content takedown notices Twitter had not responded to or acted upon. The MeitY notice also did not make any mentions of the content.

Twitter India did not reply to ET’s queries on the development.

This was not the first instance where the IT ministry has sent a warning to Twitter of the possibility of losing its intermediary status over non-compliance with regulations under the IT Act. 

Twitter has blocked access in India to 80 pieces of content or user handles over the last one year, based on legal requests from the government, the intermediary said in its disclosures on Lumen Database, an internet archive of transparency reports filed by social media intermediaries.

In May 2021, when the IT Rules 2021 came into effect, MeitY had issued a similar warning to Twitter, asking it to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer, a Resident Chief Compliance Officer as well as a nodal contact person or risk losing the protection granted to it under Section 79 of the IT Act.

The law points out that an internet intermediary cannot be held liable— legally or otherwise — for any third-party information, data or communication link that is hosted or made available on its platform by users. Twitter had appointed the executives in all the roles and had informed the IT ministry of its compliance with the norms.

Twitter has blocked access in India to 80 pieces of content or user handles over the last one year, based on legal requests from the government, the intermediary said in its disclosures on Lumen Database, an internet archive of transparency reports filed by social media intermediaries.

According to its policies on withholding content for a specific geography, Twitter blocks access to a specific piece of content or handles only on receiving a valid legal request from the government of the country. “The withholdings are limited to the specific jurisdiction/country where the content is determined to be illegal,” Twitter’s country withholding policy states.

The ministry’s notice to San Francisco-based Twitter has come as India plans to overhaul the IT Rules to address challenges thrown up by the expanding digital ecosystem. The process aimed at bridging gaps in the current regulations, especially with respect to the “Big Tech platform” is in the final stages.

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