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Centre serves 'final notice' to Twitter over non-compliance of new IT rules

FPJ Bureau | Updated on: Saturday, June 05, 2021, 11:30 PM IST

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Mumbai / New Delhi: The Narendra Modi-led government on Saturday issued a notice to Twitter giving it one last chance to "immediately" comply with the new IT rules and warned that failure to adhere to the norms will lead to the platform losing exemption from liability under the IT Act. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said that Twitter's refusal to comply with the rules demonstrated the microblogging site's "lack of commitment and efforts towards providing a safe experience for the people of India on its platform". "Despite being operational in India for more than a decade, it is beyond belief that Twitter Inc has doggedly refused to create a mechanism that will enable the people of India to resolve their issues on the platform in a timely and transparent manner," the IT ministry said. Twitter declined to comment on an e-mail sent by PTI on the issue.

The microblogging site on Saturday had removed and later restored the verified blue tick on the personal account of Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu. Officials said the Twitter handle of Naidu was inactive for a long time and the Twitter algorithm removed the blue badge.

The ministry said that though with effect from May 26, 2021, "consequences follow" given Twitter's non-compliance with rules "however, as a gesture of goodwill, Twitter Inc is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the rules, failing which the exemption from liability available...shall stand withdrawn and Twitter shall be liable for consequences as per the IT Act and other penal laws of India". The notice, however, did not mention a specific date to comply with the rules.

Twitter has an estimated 1.75 crore users in India. Recently a war-of-words broke out between Twitter and the Centre over messages that slammed the Modi-government for its authoritarian rule, mishandling of the pandemic and targeting voices of dissent. The government asked Twitter to delete the messages and share details of the users but the company refused to comply. Twitter alleged intimidation and threat to free speech in India. The IT ministry said: “Users who are abused on the platform or are harassed or are subject to defamation or sexual abuse or become victims or a whole range of other abusive content must get a redressal mechanism that the same people of India have created through a due process of law." The people of India, who use Twitter, "deserve and demand" a fair mechanism to address their grievances and resolve their disputes, it said.

The new IT rules require significant social media intermediaries - providing services primarily in the nature of messaging - to enable identification of the "first originator" of the message that undermines the sovereignty of India, the security of the state, or public order. The new IT rules require significant social media intermediaries - those with other 50 lakh users - to appoint a grievance officer, nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. These personnel are required to be resident in India.

Under the new rules, social media companies will have to take down flagged content within 36 hours, and remove within 24 hours content that is flagged for nudity, pornography etc.

The Centre had said the new rules are designed to prevent abuse and misuse of platforms, and offer users a robust forum for grievance redressal. Non-compliance with the rules would result in these platforms losing their intermediary status that provides them immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them. In other words, they could be liable for criminal action in case of complaints.

(With PTI inputs)

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Published on: Saturday, June 05, 2021, 11:30 PM IST