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Twitter served ‘ultimatum’ on compliance with Indian law

If this is 'one last notice' that the government has served to Twitter heads, it is curious that the document does not mention a deadline

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The government today issued what is being touted as a final notice to social platform Twitter for compliance with the new Information Technology (IT) rules, 2021. “Twitter Inc is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the Rules, failing which the exemption from liability available under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000 shall stand withdrawn and Twitter shall be liable for consequences as per the IT Act and other penal laws of India,” the government said.

In the notice the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) said, “it is dismayed to note that your (Twitter’s) responses to the ministry’s letters neither address the clarifications sought by this ministry nor indicate full compliance with the rules.”

The ultimatum of sorts — served on a day when the social giant withdrew the authentication marks from the handles of Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and RSS ideologues led by Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat — further stated that “it is clear from your responses that till date Twitter has not informed about the details of the chief compliance officer as required under the rules.”

The Centre asked the micro-blogging platform to name a compliance officer as well as appoint a company employee as grievance officer and a nodal contact person.

“As (a) gesture of goodwill, Twitter Inc is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the rules. Failure to comply will lead to Twitter losing exemption from liability under IT Act and draw penal provisions,” the notice mentioned.

Earlier on Wednesday, the high court had said that social platforms, including Twitter, have “no choice” but to comply with India’s new IT rules for digital media.

Twitter assured the court it had complied with the rules and already appointed a resident grievance officer, adding it would file its response to the plea. But the Centre disputed the claim.

Twitter finds new IT rules difficult pill to swallow

Under the new digital rules, social companies like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have been asked to identify within 36 h the originator of a flagged message as well as to conduct additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer.

The new IT rules came into force on 26 May.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said that Twitter’s refusal to comply with the rules demonstrated the microblogging site’s “lack of commitment and efforts towards providing a safe experience for the people of India on its platform”.

“Despite being operational in India for more than a decade, it is beyond belief that Twitter Inc has doggedly refused to create (a) mechanism that will enable the people of India to resolve their issues on the platform in a timely and transparent manner and through fair processes, by India based, clearly identified resources,” the IT ministry said.

The Ministry said that though with effect from May 26, 2021, “consequences follow” given Twitter’s non-compliance with rules “however, as a gesture of goodwill, Twitter Inc. is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the rules, failing which the exemption from liability available…shall stand withdrawn and Twitter shall be liable for consequences as per the IT Act and other penal laws of India”.

The notice, however, did not given a specific deadline to comply with the rules.

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