Microblogging platform Twitter is taking baby steps towards behaving itself. After having been stripped of its intermediary status and being exposed to a volley of criminal litigation in India, Twitter has now started falling in line. Interestingly, the American media company – which has a thing for curbing conservative speech was also rapped by the Delhi High Court for its blatant disregard of Indian laws and was directed to comply with the new IT rules without fail. In the latest news, Twitter India has appointed a grievance redressal officer – as mandated by the new IT rules. Twitter has also published its first compliance report in line with the IT rules.
Twitter was trying to play smart with the government of India, but its earlier moves of hiring an interim grievance redressal officer based out of the United States were not appreciated by the Modi government. Now, Twitter has named Vinay Prakash as its Resident Grievance officer and provided an email contact id, for users to directly contact him.
Twitter on Thursday informed the Delhi High Court that it will take another eight weeks to appoint a resident grievance officer (RGO) in compliance with the new IT Rules. In an affidavit in the Delhi HC clarifying their stand on the issue of compliance under the new IT Rules, Twitter said it was in the process of setting up a liaison office in India.
Twitter’s appointment of a proper grievance redressal officer comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi overhauled his cabinet, and brought in Ashwini Vaishnaw as the new minister for electronics and information technology. Fresh into his office, Ashwini Vaishnaw had shot off a warning for Twitter. The new minister on Thursday said the law of the land is supreme, and Twitter will have to fall in line with the new social media and intermediary guidelines.
Vaishnaw was quoted as saying, “Whoever is a citizen of India and those who stay in India will have to abide by the laws of the country.” He was, of course, speaking about Twitter’s employees in India – who are required to abide by Indian laws.
Meanwhile, Twitter filed its first grievance redressal and compliance report, in which it claimed to have acted against 133 posts for reasons ranging from harassment to privacy infringement and suspended over 18,000 accounts for “child sexual exploitation and non-consensual nudity”. Twitter said it had suspended 18,385 accounts for child sexual exploitation, while 4,179 accounts were suspended for the promotion of terrorism.
The report also stated that between May 25 and June 26, Twitter processed 56 grievances that were appealing for account suspensions. These were all resolved and the appropriate responses were sent. According to the microblogging site, “We overturned 7 of the account suspensions based on the specifics of the situation, but the other accounts remain suspended.” Facebook and Google had already submitted their compliance reports to the Indian government.
Twitter seems to have realised that the new team put in charge of information technology is not to be messed with. Therefore, it has appointed the grievance redressal officer and submitted the redressal report. Twitter is also required to appoint a nodal officer and a compliance officer. It would be interesting to see how soon Twitter falls in line on those counts.
In June, due to its obsession with locking horns with the Modi government, Twitter suffered a big jolt in the markets. Soon after it lost its intermediary status in India, and with a clear intent on the part of the Indian government to punish Twitter, a rally was triggered in the NYSE-listed stock. The stock closed at $59.93, down 0.50% on NYSE. That was not the first time Twitter’s stocks took a hit due to its fight with the Indian government. On May 13, Twitter’s stock fell to a low of $50.11.
India is one of Twitter’s biggest markets and no company would dare try to kick its own business. According to a Statista report, in January 2021, the company reported 353 million monetizable daily active users. In 2020, Twitter’s annual revenue came to 3.72 billion U.S. dollars. However, the company has only been able to report a positive net income in 2018 and 2019, revealing a struggle to monetize users.
Twitter is no longer granted an intermediary status in India. As such, it is liable to be prosecuted under relevant sections of the law for any hateful and illegal content posted on its platform. It is liable for the prosecution now, and the barrage of cases that Twitter India is facing speak to the same effect. The social media giant has already been named in four significant cases in various states.
The American company has realised that it is in no position to fight a battle against the Modi government and that it would be in its best interest to follow the directions of India’s new IT Minister – Ashwini Vaishnaw.