Twitter summoned by parliamentary panel amidst tussle with govt over intermediary status

The parliamentary panel headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has asked Twitter to present its version on safeguarding citizens’ rights & prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jun 16, 2021 6:19 PM

Amidst its ongoing tussle with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity), microblogging platform Twitter has been summoned by the Lok Sabha's Standing Committee on Information Technology on Friday (18th June).

The parliamentary panel headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has asked Twitter to present its version on safeguarding citizens’ rights & prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms, including special emphasis on women security in digital space.

Media reports say that Twitter has lost its safe harbor due to non-compliance with the new IT rules. The section 79 of the IT Act protects intermediaries from liability arising due to third-party content. The platform has been at loggerheads with the Meity over the implementation of the new intermediary guidelines.

However, the internet watchdog Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has debunked news reports which say that Twitter has lost the protective shield of an intermediary status. It pointed out that the intermediary status is not a registration that is granted by the Government.

The IFF stated that the present concerns arise from Rule 7 of the IT Rules, but Rule 7 only says that the provisions of Section 79 of the IT Act won’t apply to intermediaries that fail to observe the IT Rules. The intermediary status is actually a technical qualification as per criteria under the Section 2(1)(ua)(w) of the IT Act, it said.

As per Section 79, intermediaries are immune from liability/penalty if they comply with legal take down requests of user posts from courts & public authorities. It also stated that the courts will decide whether a company like Twitter is an intermediary or not.

The company is yet to provide any concrete information to the Meity on Chief Compliance Officer, the name, or details even as the resident grievance officer and the nodal contact person nominated by the company are not its employees in India.

Reports also say that Twitter has written to the government that it is in the advanced stages of finalising the chief compliance officer and additional details will be submitted to the government within a week. "We are in advanced stages of finalising the appointment of the role of chief compliance officer, and we plan to provide additional details to you in the next several days, and at the latest within a week," Twitter said in the letter that was sent on June 7 to the Meity.

In a series of tweets, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad noted that Twitter has failed to comply with the intermediary guidelines which came into effect from 26th May.

"There are numerous queries arising whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision. However, 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. Further, Twitter was given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however it has deliberately chosen the path of non-compliance," Prasad said.

He also stated that Twitter has chosen the path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines. "Further, what is perplexing is that Twitter fails to address the grievances of users by refusing to set up process as mandated by the law of the land. Additionally, it chooses a policy of flagging manipulates media, only when it suits, its likes and dislikes," he stated.

Prasad also said that Indian companies that do business in the USA or in other foreign countries, voluntarily follow the local laws. "Then why are platforms like Twitter showing reluctance in following Indian laws designed to give voice to the victims of abuse and misuse?"

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