Twitter has finally responded to India’s new IT rules and said it would strive to comply with applicable law in India. Replying to a query, Twitter tells India Today Tech that it is particularly concerned about the requirement to make an individual (the compliance officer) criminally liable for content on the platform, the requirements for proactive monitoring, and the blanket authority to seek information about our customers.
Twitter goes on to add that this represents dangerous overreach that is inconsistent with open, democratic principles.
“Twitter is deeply committed to the people of India. Our service has proven vital for the public conversation and a source of support for people during the pandemic. To keep our service available, we will strive to comply with applicable law in India. But, just as we do around the world, we will continue to be strictly guided by principles of transparency, a commitment to empowering every voice on the service, and protecting freedom of expression and privacy under the rule of law,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
Twitter has also urged the Ministry of Electronics and IT to publish these Standard Operating Protocols on procedural aspects of compliance for public consultation.
On 25 February 2021, the Central Government enacted the InformationTechnology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which cast various obligations on internet intermediaries, and in particular, on social media platforms.
It was reported that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were yet to comply with their obligations under the 2021 Rules. This gave rise to an apprehension among users of such websites that these websites could either stop operations or be banned in India for such non-compliance.
Internet intermediaries are entities which perform various functions including facilitation of exchange of information and online communication. For example, Facebook or Twitter are internet intermediaries.
A user registered on Facebook can share information with his connections without the same being edited by Facebook in any manner. This passive role adopted by Facebook is what in essence enables it to be classified as an intermediary.
Under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, intermediaries are granted protection from incurring any liability for third-party data available on their platform or hosted by them. This protection is essential as various intermediaries such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube do not monitor the content posted by third-party users on their platforms.