The microblogging site Twitter, which is at loggerheads with the Indian government, is set to lose its intermediary status in India as it is yet to comply with the revised IT regulations that kicked into effect on May 26.
What it essentially means is that Twitter could now be equally liable under the law for any unlawful content (obscene pictures or impersonation) on its platform as the person posting such content. The “safe harbour” immunity is no longer be available to Twitter because it has been tardy, or even plain irresponsible, in complying with the law of the land.
As it happens, the first case against it has already been filed in Uttar Pradesh.
Twitter’s moves fall short of legal requirement
The Indian government did not mince words when it gave one final notice to Twitter, saying that non-adherence to rules will lead to unintended consequences including Twitter losing exemption from liability as an intermediary.
Yesterday, Twitter said it had appointed an interim chief compliance officer and will soon share the details with the government. But is yet to appoint three key executives—required by India’s new IT rules to be permanent employees. It did appoint a lawyer as its interim grievance and nodal officer on a contractual basis. But those moves still fell short of legal requirements.
Twitter had earlier said it will “strive to comply with applicable law”, but asked for time and changes to sections of the rules that inhibit free speech. The government had accused the company of seeking to undermine the country’s legal system.
First case slapped against Twitter
In general, the perception is Twitter, without complying with the laws and trying to play victim, is resorting to a strategy that is clever by half. In contrast, other social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp have adhered to the requirements of the law.
In the event, the first case holding Twitter responsible for third party content was filed last night in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, in connection with an alleged assault on an elderly Muslim man on June 5. Twitter has been accused in a First Information Report (FIR) of not removing “misleading” content linked to the incident. Police said that a communal colour was given to the incident without verification of facts and said that Twitter did nothing to prevent the video from getting viral.
Separately, the Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology has asked Twitter to appear before it on June 18 and put its views on the prevention of misuse of its platform.
The micro-blogging site has an estimated 1.75 crore users in India, and is an important market for it.