After not being able to appoint statutory officers on time, Twitter has lost the coveted “safe harbour” immunity in India.
According to a report by Times of India, the company’s top executives, including the country managing director, could now face police questioning and criminal liability over ‘unlawful’ and ‘inflammatory’ content posted on the platform by any user.
With this, Twitter becomes the only American platform to have lost the protective shield – granted under Section 79 of the IT Act, even though others such as, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp and remain protected.
Companies had to originally appoint the officers by May 25, but many were delayed as they blamed the lockdown and other technical challenges for their failure to comply with the rules.
Reacting to the developments, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Electronics & Information Technology, said 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 the grievances of users by refusing to set up process as mandated by the law of the land. Additionally, it chooses a policy of flagging manipulates media, only when it suits, its likes and dislikes," he added.
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.— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) June 16, 2021
Meanwhile, Twitter on Tuesday said it has appointed an interim Chief Compliance Officer and the details of the official will be shared with the IT Ministry directly soon. The Government had issued a notice to Twitter giving it one last chance to “immediately" comply with the new IT rules and warned that failure to adhere to the norms will lead to the platform losing exemption from liability under the IT Act.
Following this, Twitter had assured the Indian government last week that it is in advanced stages of finalising the appointment of chief compliance officer as required under the new IT rules, and that it will 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.
An interim Chief Compliance Officer has been retained and details will be shared with the Ministry directly soon, the spokesperson added. The move by Twitter assumes significance as the microblogging platform has been facing heat over delay in complying with the IT rules that mandate large digital platforms to undertake greater due diligence, and make them more accountable and responsible for the content that is hosted. As per 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.