Twitter, one of the most popular social media platforms in India, has lost its safe harbour immunity due to its failure to comply with certain rules mandated by the Government of India. The platform was supposed to appoint statutory officers as per the New IT Rules 2021 that came into effect on 26 May 2021. However, the Government of India says that the platform was given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, but the platform “deliberately” chose the path of non-compliance.
“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,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister of Law and Justice, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology.
“The culture of India varies like its large geography. In certain scenarios, with the amplification of social media, even a small spark can cause a fire, especially with the menace of fake news. This was one of the objectives of bringing the Intermediary Guidelines. 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 Guideline,” he added.
The minister went on to say that Twitter has failed to address the grievances of users by refusing to set up process as mandated by the law of the land. “Additionally, it chooses a policy of flagging manipulates media, only when it suits, its likes and dislikes,” he commented. The minister also while giving the example of Uttar Pradesh said that the platform had failed in fighting the spread of misinformation.
“What happened in UP was illustrative of Twitter’s arbitrariness in fighting fake news. While Twitter has been over enthusiastic about its fact checking mechanism, it’s failure to act in multiple cases like UP is perplexing & indicates its inconsistency in fighting misinformation,” he said. The minister reiterated that the rule of law was the bedrock of Indian society, and that India’s commitment to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech was yet again reaffirmed at the G7 summit. “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,” he said.
Industry Reactions on Twitter Losing its Safe Harbour Shield
Sahil Chopra, founder and CEO, iCubesWire, said: Twitter including other social media giants were extremely helpful in helping and connecting people during the second wave of Covid-19, which was appreciated globally. However, following India’s laws and regulations are paramount for any company. With so much of fake news being spread through social media platforms, it is important to keep a tab on offensive content especially where religious sentiments can be hurt or fake news is spread on COVID vaccination. We are hopeful the Indian govt. and Twitter can work thing out soon to ensure Indian laws and rules are followed.”