Microblogging platform Twitter on Tuesday lost its ‘intermediary’ status after failing to comply with the new IT rules. The US-based company failed to employ a grievance officer in time, despite being granted repeated extensions. As a result, 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.
Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, shared the news that Twitter had lost its ‘immunity’ granted under Section 79 of the IT Act in the country, despite being granted multiple opportunities to comply with the same.
He said, “Twitter was given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however, it has deliberately chosen the path of non-compliance”
As reported by TFI, India had fixed five million registered users as the threshold for defining a significant social media company as an intermediary. After the deadline to adhere to the new IT guidelines elapsed last month on May 26, social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, and Twitter ran the risk of losing their status as “intermediaries” and could have become liable for criminal action if they did not comply with the revised regulations.
While initially, all the aforementioned companies tried to stall adhering to the policy change, the government had to step in and use an iron fist to set things in motion. Although Facebook sent its subsidiary WhatsApp to the court to sue the government, it had to return empty-handed and accept the government’s decision.
Meanwhile, Twitter remained vague in its communications with the government and deliberately leaked reports in the media that it had appointed an interim Grievance officer. While the government received no update about as such, it became clear that Twitter was biding its time and trying to impede the proceedings.
On June 5, the ministry had sent its final notice to Twitter over non-compliance with the new IT rules, warning it again of penal action. However, Twitter still remained unperturbed and indubitably the government was forced to revoke its status.
Coming down heavy on the California headquartered company, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad signed off saying that Twitter should not think of itself as bigger than the country.
Prasad said, “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.”
Twitter thus, dug its own grave by going against the diktat of the government. While the netizens are demanding that Twitter be banned just the way Nigeria did, the government is surely heading in the same direction, if Twitter continues its rebellious teenager act.