Currently in the news for all the wrong reasons and after losing its ‘Intermediary’ status granting it immunity from facing the music from the Indian law authorities — Twitter’s troubles continue to mount. According to a Sunday Guardian Live report, it has been revealed that the Indian arm of the US-based company up until the end of March 2019 had not set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as required under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, six years after its inception in the country.
Despite two cases of sexual harassment emerging from the Delhi and Bangalore office of the company, Twitter Communications India Private Limited failed to set up ICC, as the filing submitted by the company to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) on 19 September 2019 for the financial year April 2018-March 2019 reveals.
The non-constitution of an ICC attracts a penalty, including the imposition of a fine up to Rs 50,000 and twice the amount of fine for the repetition of the same offence. Further, the Act provides for withdrawal, non-renewal or cancellation of business licences, as the case may be, in case of repeated non-compliance.
And this is not the first time that Twitter has been caught red-handed for its lacklustre policies regarding sexual harassment cases. Reported by TFI, the company has already lied to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) when asked about its mechanism for dealing with child pornography and other matters concerning child welfare on social media.
When NCPCR approached Twitter India and told it to report cases of child pornography and other offences to the police, as directed by the POSCO act, the Indian arm of the social media platform purposefully lied that such matters fell under the ambit of Twitter Inc, based in California, United States.
However, upon digging around, the Child rights body found that the company was lying with a plain face. The NCPCR chief remarked that Twitter Communications India has issued 10,000 shares, out of which 9,999 are owned by Twitter Inc.
The commission also found that two of the three directors on the board of Twitter Communications India were actually employees of Twitter Inc. Thus, making it clear as day that Twitter India was indeed related to Twitter Inc.
Consequently, the commission asked Delhi Police to book Twitter Communications India Private Limited under section 199 of the Indian Penal Code. Furthermore, the NCPCR wrote a letter to the IT Ministry requesting that children’s access to the social media platform be restricted for seven days until the social media platform is judged safe for children and begins to follow India’s IT standards.
“Twitter India Pvt Ltd and Twitter Inc, both have lied during the NCPCR investigation. Gave false information which is against the IPC section 199 in India. We have asked the Delhi Police to file an FIR in the matter,” said Priyank Kanoongo, NCPCR chief.
Reported by TFI, while all big social media companies have adhered to the new compliance IT laws of the country, it is the Jack Dorsey owned platform that is evading and dodging the Indian government after the deadline to comply with the provisions of the IT rules elapsed on May 26.
As a result, the company, last Tuesday lost its ‘intermediary’ status and now Twitter India MD or any other top executive functionary could face police questioning and criminal liability under IPC over ‘unlawful’ and ‘inflammatory’ content posted on the platform by any user.
The fact that Twitter took more than six years to form an ICC should speak volumes about the kind of atmosphere the company creates for its employees. And what’s more dumbfounding is the company’s lack of policy to clear its digital space of child sexual abuse material. With such sketchy behaviour, the government should dial-up its actions on Twitter by several notches.