Unable To Comply New IT Rules, Twitter Lost Protective IT Shield In India

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Twitter, the micro blogging social media platform lost its safe harbour immunity, also known as protective shield in India.

Under the safe harbour immunity, if any social media content posted on platform like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook violates local laws, they could be saved from cases with this immunity harbour.

On the 16th of June, the American social media platform lost the safe harbour immunity, granted under Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, for failing to comply with the new IT rules.

With the loss of the protected shield, the social media platform would now be liable for action under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for third party unlawful content. The decision was taken by the Union Information Technology Ministry after Twitter failed to comply with the new lT rules.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Union IT Minister took to Twitter and 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.” The IT minister mentioned, “Indian companies, be it pharma, IT or others that go to do business in the USA or in other foreign countries, voluntarily follow the local laws. Then why are platforms like Twitter showing reluctance in following Indian laws designed to give voice to the victims of abuse and misuse? However, if any foreign entity believes that they can portray itself as the flag bearer of free speech in India to excuse itself from complying with the law of the land, such attempts are misplaced.”

In a series of tweets, Ravi Shankar Prasad also said, “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.”

Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad also highlighted the misinformation and inaccurate facts being spread through Twitter. He said, “While Twitter has been over enthusiastic about its fact checking mechanism, its failure to act in multiple cases like U.P., is perplexing as well as points towards its inconsistency in fighting misinformation.”

On the 25th of February, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) issued a set of guidelines for social media platforms and (over the top) OTT platforms. While announcing the new guidelines, the Ministry set a deadline of the 25th of May and asked these aforementioned digital platform companies to implement the guidelines.

The new guidelines mandated firms to appoint grievance officers, disclose the first originator of the mischievous information and remove, within 24 hours, content depicting nudity or morphed pictures of women. Concerned about crimes against women and other misuses, the GoI brought a soft touch control over the use.

As per the new rules, social media intermediaries have to appoint a grievance officer, who should register complaints within 24 hours. The grievance redressal official must reside in India and monthly compliance reports should be filed by social media platforms. Social media platforms on being asked by a court or Government would be required to disclose the first originator of the mischievous information. The guidelines would be followed by social media platforms like Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, blogs and other websites. Publishers of news and current affairs content would also be under the scrutiny of these officers.

However, despite the given three months of time and several reminders and notices, Twitter failed to compile the new guidelines.

With this, Twitter is the only social media platform without safe harbour immune in India.

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