Twitter has lost legal indemnity in India because of its failure to comply with new rules requiring it to appoint key officers in India, government sources said today, shortly after a case was filed in Uttar Pradesh against the social media giant over posts on a viral video of an assault that the police say tried to incite communal trouble.
Twitter has not yet complied with all the provisions of the rules that came into force on May 25, sources in the Ministry of Electronics and IT said. “Due to their non-compliance their protection as an intermediary is gone. Twitter is liable for penal actions against any Indian law just as any publisher is,” the sources said.
Twitter has been accused of not removing the “misleading” content linked to an incident in Ghaziabad on June 5, in which an elderly Muslim man had alleged that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant “Vande Matram” and “Jai Shri Ram” by a group that assaulted him.
The UP police said it was not a communal incident, as implied in tweets; the man, Sufi Abdul Samad, was attacked by six men – Hindus and Muslims – who were unhappy over the amulets he had sold them.
The police FIR charges Twitter and several journalists for inciting “communal sentiments” with posts sharing the man’s allegations on the assault.
The police say in the FIR that they had put out a press release on the night of June 14 through their Twitter handle giving details and refuting the communal angle. Despite the clarification, the police allege, users did not delete the tweets and Twitter did not take any steps to get the tweets removed.
“Since they do not enjoy any protection and they did not flag this video as manipulated media, they are liable for penal action,” government sources said.
Twitter is the only tech platform that has not complied with the new IT rules that require major digital platforms to appoint India-based officers including a Chief Compliance Officer.
On Tuesday, Twitter had said it had appointed an interim Chief Compliance Officer and would soon share details with the IT Ministry. Twitter had initially expressed concern as the new rules came into effect last month and after several warnings from the Ministry of Electronics and IT, appointed an Indian interim grievance redressal officer.
A Twitter spokesperson said the company “continues to make every effort” to comply with the new guidelines and is keeping the IT Ministry apprised of progress at every step of the process.
Earlier this month, the government had given Twitter a stern “last notice” to comply with the new rules, saying its refusal to do so demonstrated its “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 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 Ministry of Electronics and IT had said.