Social media platform Twitter is learnt to have approached the government seeking more time to comply with the new IT rules. According to sources, the micro-blogging site has said that it intends to comply with the rules but needs more time due to the pandemic situation in India.
“Twitter has written to Meity seeking more time to comply with the IT rules. It has expressed its intent to comply with the rules but has been unable to do so because of the pandemic,” a source told PTI. The response from Twitter comes after the government, last week, issued a strongly-worded final notice to the company regarding its non-compliance with the new rules.
When contacted, a Twitter spokesperson said Twitter has been and remains deeply committed to India, and serving the vital public conversation taking place on the service. “We have assured the Government of India that Twitter is making every effort to comply with the new guidelines, and an overview on our progress has been duly shared. We will continue our constructive dialogue with the Indian Government,” the spokesperson said.
In its notice, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had said that Twitter’s refusal to comply with the rules demonstrated the micro-blogging site’s “lack of commitment and efforts towards providing a safe experience for the people of India on its platform”. “Despite being operational in India for more than a decade, it is beyond belief that Twitter Inc has doggedly refused to create mechanism that will enable the people of India to resolve their issues on the platform in a timely and transparent manner and through fair processes, by India based, clearly identified resources,” the ministry had said.
The new IT rules for social media companies that came into effect last month mandate large platforms like Facebook and Twitter to undertake greater due diligence and make these digital platforms more accountable and responsible for the content hosted by them. The rules also require significant social media intermediaries — providing services primarily in the nature of messaging — to enable identification of the “first originator” of the information that undermines the sovereignty of India, the security of the state, or public order.
Under the rules, significant social media intermediaries — those with over 50 lakh users — are required to appoint a grievance officer, a nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. These personnel have to be residents in India. Further, social media companies will have to take down flagged content within 36 hours, and remove within 24 hours content that is flagged for issues such as nudity and pornography.
As per the ministry’s notice, though with effect from May 26, 2021, “consequences follow” given Twitter’s non-compliance with rules, “as a gesture of goodwill, Twitter Inc is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the rules, failing which the exemption from liability available shall stand withdrawn and Twitter shall be liable for consequences as per the IT Act and other penal laws of India”. However, the notice did not mention about a specific date for the micro-blogging site to comply with the rules.
Non-compliance with the rules would result in these platforms losing their intermediary status that provides them immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them. In other words, they could be liable for criminal action in case of complaints. According to the central government, the new rules are designed to prevent abuse and misuse of platforms, and offer users a robust forum for grievance redressal.