Twitter has been brought to its knees. It is crying for help. It is asking for forgiveness. Twitter is running from pillar to post to somehow hide its embarrassment. Never before has Twitter been humiliated in such a magnificent manner. But as, we at TFI, have been saying for quite a long time now, Twitter took up a fight with the wrong country, the wrong government and the wrong man. Messing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was bound to have catastrophic consequences for the microblogging site. Yet, it went on flexing its non-existent muscles.
Moreover, after the Delhi High Court ordered Twitter on Monday to comply with the new IT rules within three weeks, the microblogging platform said it strives to comply with the laws in India. The company has also said that it has appointed a grievance officer for the country. A statement by Twitter read, “As we have stated earlier, Twitter strives to comply with applicable law in India. We 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 Indian law.”
Twitter basically sued the government of India and lost the legal fight embarrassingly – forcing it to obey the new social media guidelines within a month. Earlier, Twitter had not sent details of the chief compliance officer appointed by it to the IT Ministry and had instead shared details of a lawyer working in a law firm as a nodal contact person and grievance officer. This infuriated the Modi government, as all other social media companies and platforms had sent the names of their compliance officers to the Ministry.
The Modi government had in February this year announced a new set of social media and OTT guidelines which were to come into effect from May 26. All social media companies have complied, or have at least taken significant steps towards compliance. Twitter, however, thought it could openly disobey Indian laws and show off its bravado thereafter. This did not go down well with the Modi government, which rounded up the social media giant for its defiance.
Addressing the issue of Twitter’s obstinacy to not comply with Indian laws and instead consider itself a sovereign entity in the country, Union IT & Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that India respects privacy, but “one has to give details when terror elements, anti-socials, anti-nationals are involved.”
Lashing out at the microblogging platform for its disregard for the Indian parliament, Ravi Shankar Prasad told India Today, “Twitter is a platform, not a regulator. To regulate, they say they have kept fact-checkers. Who are these fact-checkers? I want to know their names and how they have been appointed. Twitter should just follow India’s laws.”
Last week, panic struck Twitter Inc.’s global headquarters in the United States as Delhi Police dispatched two teams of its special cell to pay a visit to the microblogging site’s offices in New Delhi and Gurgaon. The two teams carried notices with them to be served to Twitter. Ever since, Twitter went on the defensive and started making haphazard remarks, and even alleged that its employees were being intimated and that the new rules threaten freedom of expression in India.
The defeat in Indian courts serves as a big lesson for Twitter. It cannot get away by flouting Indian laws and will be taken to task for its misadventures. India is certainly not the United States, where Twitter can get away with its stunts. In India, Twitter will have to pay costly prices for its digital colonialism.