Amidst the controversy between the centre and social media platform Twitter, it has come to light that Delhi Police had traveled to Bengaluru on May 31 to question Twitter India’s MD, Manish Maheshwari, over allegations of “Congress toolkit plot”.
A senior officer revealed that the New Delhi Range of the special cell had approached Maheshwari days after they visited Twitter India’s Delhi and Gurugram office. However, they couldn’t locate the Gurugram office and the Delhi office was locked.
Maheshwari was informed about this investigation through a notice. “Another notice was sent to Maheshwari by the investigation officer to join the investigation. The IO had told him that they would come to his house for questioning. They were later communicated by Maheshwari to come to Bengaluru and two inspectors, along with a senior officer, went there to question him”, the officer confirmed.
During interrogation, which lasted two hours, the police inquired about the hierarchy of the company. They also questioned why the toolkit was labeled as ‘manipulated media’.
Meanwhile, Twitter appoints an interim Chief Compliance officer in India announcing the platform’s compliance with the new IT rules.
Speaking to India Today, the Twitter representative said it has acknowledged the new IT rules by appointing an Interim Chief Compliance Officer. “We are keeping the ministry apprised of the progress at every step of the process. An interim Chief Compliance Officer has been retained and details will be shared with the Ministry directly soon. Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with the new Guidelines,” the representative said.
Twitter lost its legal safety after it failed to appoint statutory officers as proposed by the new IT rules.
“The simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May.”
What is a legal cover?
An ‘intermediary’ status provides social media platforms immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them. Losing a legal cover can cause Twitter to be susceptible to Indian laws and could be held accountable for objectionable content posted on the platform.
“With the legal cover provided by Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act gone, Twitter employees, starting from its head in India, will be held liable for any post on the platform that violates any law of the land.”
This means that if someone has put content on Twitter that has violence or violates an Indian law, the person will be held accountable and Twitter will also be legally liable for the content.
In the longer run, the tech giant might be subjected to the 26 per cent cap of direct foreign investment in media and publishing, which may force the platform to look for an Indian buyer for the remaining 74 per cent stake.
How did the issue begin?
The government of India announced new IT rules in February, which required IT companies including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Koo, and Google to appoint an Indian chief compliance officer, nodal officer, and grievance officer. Non-compliance with the new IT rules could lead the tech companies to lose intermediary status and be liable for a criminal case.
Facebook and WhatsApp accepted the IT rules by appointing grievance officers. However, Twitter asked the center for more time to comply with the new IT rules. The rules were brought into effect on May 25. On June 5, the Centre also sent a letter to the platform advising them to comply with the rules.
Twitter appointed a single person as nodal and grievance officer the following day. However, the platform failed to appoint a compliance officer as mandated by the rules. Hence, losing protection as a social media intermediary.