On February 25th new IT rules called the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 [the “Rules”] were notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The new ruled aimed to regulate and manage social media platforms and the content shared on it.
The establishment of a grievance redressal system was made mandatory for social media corporations as per the Rules. It also lays down provision where the government and authorities can order social media platforms to remove questionable content — which must be complied with within 32 hours. The Rules came into effect in May and platforms were granted till 26th May to comply with the Rules. Instances of non-compliance have already come forward.
On June 16th, an FIR was filed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh state against Twitter for its failure to flag a video of an incident depicted with communal colour without verifying the content and facts of the matter. Twitter’s Indian Managing Director Manish Maheshwari was booked after probe into the matter and has been asked to cooperate with the investigation.
Hours later the Technology Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad of India accused Twitter Inc. for non-compliance and deliberate defiance of the new Rules. The Minister stated that the social media giant is expected to follow the Indian laws irrespective of its own rules and guidelines. A warning was sent to Twitter had already been issued by the Union Government in early June for complying with the Rules.
Twitter has saught and been granted exemptions for liability on the basis that the platform performs as merely an intermediary. Twitter will most likely lose the status of being an intermediary and will be treated as a publisher due to their failure of adhering to the laws. Overtime Twitter has issued statements that the company intends to comply and abide by all Indian laws. An interim Chief Compliance Officer was appointed by Twitter India and all reports were said to be shared with the IT Ministry.
On 18th June, Twitter appeared before a Parliamentary Panel chaired by Shashi Tharoor with the agenda of protecting rights on the social media platform at the request of the Ministry. The meeting with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology went on for a long time.
The tiff between Twitter and government regarding the new IT Rules is escalating in a social environment where the Rules were not welcomed by many. Several find the Rules going against the fundamental right of free speech of the citizens of the country.
Originally posted on www.kpalegal.com on 20th July 2021