Microblogging platform Twitter and the government of India are at loggerheads for quite some time. There are several reasons behind it but the main point which has brought them to the threshold is that the former has not yet accepted the new IT rules which came into force on May 26.
The government had already given three months to all the social media platforms to comply with the new rules. Though almost all the platforms had their disagreements over those rules eventually they accepted it. However, Twitter is an exception as it has still not followed the new IT rules.
Under the new digital rules, social media companies like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter have been asked to identify within 36 hours the originator of a flagged message as well as to conduct additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and resident grievance officer.
Twitter taking a stand
On May 25, Twitter’s offices were raided in Delhi and Gurugram in connection with the alleged ‘Congress toolkit’ case.
Earlier Twitter had said, “To keep our service available, we will strive to comply with applicable law in India and we will continue to be strictly guided by principles of transparency, a commitment to empowering every voice, and protecting freedom of expression and privacy.”
After the raid, Twitter strongly condemned the incident and in a strongly-worded statement said, “We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules.”
Government’s response to the Toolkit allegations
After the ruckus over the manipulated media tag, the government had called Twitter’s allegations “totally baseless, false, and an attempt to defame India.” Meanwhile, Delhi Police reiterated that the statement was “mendacious” and designed to impede a lawful inquiry.
Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the issue of office raid said that Twitter has been sent notices regarding the alleged cases but it failed to reply following which the police visited its offices late on May 24.
Meanwhile, in the latest development, Delhi High Court said that Twitter has to comply with the new Information Technology Rules for digital media if they have not stayed.
The larger picture
Even after the three months of issuance of the new IT rules, which had asked to set up a grievance redressal system, Twitter didn’t comply with the latest IT Rules. It has not yet sent the information about the chief compliance officer to the IT Ministry. Instead, the microblogging platform has chosen a different path and has shared all these details with a lawyer working in a law firm as a nodal contact person and grievance officer, sources told PTI.
This development comes even after the new IT rules clearly needed these designated officers of the significant social media platforms to be employees of the company and residents in India.
There is another cause of concern that for determining the originator, the social media company has broken the privacy policies which is against the rules of the company. Government, on the other hand, argued that the originator of the message only needs to be identified only in cases when the message is required for prevention, investigation, or punishment of very serious offenses.
There will be huge repercussions for social media platforms if they don’t comply with the rules as their intermediary status will be taken off and therefore, they will be liable for criminal action.
The next step for Twitter is that it is expected to file an affidavit explaining its actions.