The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology held a consultation meeting with legal experts and government departments concluding that the government of India will no longer be providing Twitter legal safe harbour protection.
The social media giant will no longer be an “intermediary” and cannot avail of the legal protection guaranteed under section 79 of the Information Technology Act. The central government will present its decision in court when needed.
The decision comes amidst a stressful circumstance between the central agencies and Twitter India. Dharmendra Chatur resigning from the position of Interim Grievance Officer has exacerbated the situation and has left the social media giant without an Indian interim officer, as mandated by the new IT rules.
Although, the Global Legal Policy Director of Twitter, Jeremy Kessel has taken over as the interim officer. The appointment of Jeremy Kessel is not in line with the new IT rule.
This drew backlash and the government officials warned the social media platform that it could face a seven years jail term, financial penalties, and even get its services blocked in India under Section 69A of IT rules.
The section allows the government to flag content that violates the sovereignty and integrity of India. As a result, the map was removed from the website.
BJP leader P Muralidhar Rao tweeted condemning the actions of Twitter and urged the platform to follow the law of India.
In October 2020, Twitter was sent a notice by the Indian government over a geotag which featured Leh as a part of China. The government wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, conveying their disappointment regarding the misinterpretation of the Indian map.
Since the attack on the US Capitol, Twitter has subsequently stepped up policing the content posted on the platform. The platform is flagging misleading content and checking copyrights concerning the content.
The lawyer posted an article that alleged a 45-year-old woman died 10 days after receiving the vaccine.
His tweet was flagged as misleading. Twitter also had blocked the account of IT and law minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, over copyright issues and labelled a tweet by Sambit Patra, BJP spokesperson with manipulated tag.
The tussle between Twitter and the Indian government began when the new IT rules were announced. All social media platforms were asked to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, Interim Grievance Officer, and Nodal Contact Officer as per the New IT rules.
The rules came into effect on May 25. Twitter raised concerns over freedom of speech and expression. The Indian Government said the platform had failed to comply with the IT rule and hence would lose safe harbour protection in India.
The loss of a legal cover means the platform will be held liable for the content posted on the platform and can face penalties under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the New IT Act.