Asia - Pacific

India slams Twitter for not complying with new IT regulations

Tech giant deliberately chose path of non-compliance, says minister

Shuriah Niazi   | 16.06.2021
India slams Twitter for not complying with new IT regulations

NEW DELHI

Amid a continuing standoff, India's technology minister on Wednesday said Twitter had deliberately failed to comply with the country's new IT laws, which came into effect on May 26.

"Twitter was given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however it has deliberately chosen the path of non-compliance," tweeted Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The new rules or the so-called Intermediary Guidelines, announced on Feb. 25, are aimed at making social media firms more accountable to requests for the removal of posts. They were given three months to appoint a local grievance officer, a chief compliance officer, and a nodal contact person.

The rules also make it mandatory for companies to trace the origin of particular messages if asked by a court or the government, a policy that WhatsApp has challenged in court.

Prasad said it is astounding that Twitter, which portrays itself as the "flag-bearer of free speech," chooses the path of "deliberate defiance."

He argued that if Indian companies in foreign countries can follow local laws, "why are platforms like Twitter showing reluctance in following Indian laws designed to give voice to the victims of abuse and misuse?"

Twitter did not immediately issue a response to the minister's statements, but it said on Tuesday it was keeping India's technology ministry apprised of the steps it was taking.

"An interim Chief Compliance Officer has been retained and details will be shared with the Ministry directly soon,” it said in a statement. “Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with the new guidelines."

Last month, Twitter said it was worried for the safety of its staff due to the “intimidation tactics” of Indian authorities, days after police visited one of its offices to serve a notice for labeling a tweet by a ruling party official as “manipulated media.”

In April, Twitter complied with an order to remove tweets critical of the government's handling of coronavirus.

Earlier, following a legal request it blocked access to accounts associated with farmers protesting against agricultural reforms – within India only. It, however, added it would not block accounts belonging to media companies, journalists, activists and politicians because that would "violate their fundamental right to free expression under the Indian law."


Status as social media intermediary

Meanwhile, reports said Twitter has lost its status as a social media intermediary in India. This means it would be treated as a publisher and be liable for punishment for unlawful content.

Prasad did not directly comment on the matter, but said "there are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision."

The Internet Freedom Foundation, a New Delhi-based digital advocacy group, said it was only up to courts, and not the government, to decide whether companies such as Twitter remained intermediaries.

Such reports emerged from an "incorrect reading of the law,” it said, as the hashtag #TwitterBanInIndia started trending on the internet.

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