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Twitter might lose its social media intermediary status in India

Written by Avanish Tiwary Published on     3 mins read

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The new IT rules have become a major bone of contention for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

India’s Minister of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Ravi Shankar Prasad, once again accused micro-blogging platform Twitter of not complying with the country’s recent IT rules that seek stricter control over social media companies.

Non-adherence to them could mean that Twitter will lose its ‘intermediary’ status that gives social media companies protection from being legally liable to host third-party posts on the platform. However, there has been no official word from New Delhi on this yet.

“There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision. However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May. Twitter was given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however, it has deliberately chosen the path of non-compliance,” Prasad said in his tweet.

The new IT rules that came into force in February this year have become a major bone of contention for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. The rules direct social media intermediaries to set up a grievance redressal mechanism which includes appointing a chief compliance officer. This person will liaison between the law enforcement bodies and the social media intermediary to address government concerns, including post takedowns within 72 hours of the request.

While the deadline to comply with the rules ended on May 26, MeitY sent a final notice to Twitter on June 6 to apprise the government of its status to adhere to the new law. On Tuesday this week, Twitter said it had appointed an interim compliance officer and will soon send the details to the ministry.

“We are keeping the MeitY [IT Ministry] apprised of the progress at every step of the process. An interim chief compliance officer has been retained, and details will be shared directly with the Ministry soon. Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with the new guidelines,” a Twitter spokesperson told local media Entrackr.

It should be noted that Google, Facebook, and WhatsApp have shared details of compliance officers with the ministry.

The Indian government and social media giants, specifically Twitter and Facebook, have been at odds for several years. The tiff between Twitter and the Indian government escalated earlier this year when the former refused to remove the trending hashtag “farmer genocide” as well as to deactivate accounts of over 1,400 users who the government alleged were spreading rumors about the new farmer’s law. However, it later had to block those accounts but has maintained its stance that New Delhi is trying to suppress freedom of speech in the country.

“It is astounding that Twitter, which portrays itself as the flag bearer of free speech, chooses the path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the intermediary guidelines. Further, what is perplexing is that Twitter fails to address users’ grievances by refusing to set up processes as mandated by the law of the land. Additionally, it chooses a policy of flagging manipulated media only when it suits its likes and dislikes,” Prasad posted.

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