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Updated on: Friday, September 24, 2021, 03:14 PM IST

FPJ Legal: Twitter appointed officers in compliance with new IT Rules, Centre tells Delhi HC – Here’s all you need know

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The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that Twitter has appointed Chief Compliance Officer (CCO), Resident Grievance Officer (RGO), and Nodal Contact Person in compliance with the new IT Rules.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), in a short affidavit, said Twitter has acknowledged that the personnel (CCO, Nodal Contact Person, and RGO) are appointed as the company's employees and not as 'contingent workers'.

"Twitter has provided the names of the said appointed personnel and their respective positions also. The said affidavit (of Twitter) mentions their employment start date as August 4, 2021. Twitter has further enclosed their employment contracts along with the said affidavit as proof of such appointments," the ministry said.

The court had on August 10 directed the Centre to file a short affidavit in response to Twitter's affidavit in which the company had shown compliance with IT Rules.

"I submit that Twitter has appointed the personnel in compliance to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 hereinafter referred as IT Rules, 2021," N Samaya Balan, working as Scientist-E in the Cyber Law Group with the MEITY, said in the affidavit.

Justice Rekha Palli, who was hearing a petition alleging non-compliance of IT Rules by the US-based microblogging site, is scheduled to hear the matter on October 5.

The Centre's affidavit further said the IT Rules, 2021 is "a law of the land" and Twitter is "mandatorily required to comply with the IT Rules 2021 in its entirety".

"Any non-compliance amounts to a breach of the provisions of the IT Rules, 2021 thereby leading to Twitter losing its immunity conferred under section 79(I) of the IT Act, 2000.

"The exemptions conferred on intermediaries under section 79(I) is a conditional exemption subject to the intermediary satisfying the conditions under sections 79(2) and 79(3). Further, as per rule 7, failure to observe the IT Rules, 2021 will result in the non-applicability of Section 79(1) of the IT Act, 2000 to such an intermediary and the intermediary shall become liable for any punishment under any law for the time being in force in respect of the offending content," it said.

It further said that the IT Rules, 2021 also mandate that a Significant Social media Intermediary (SSMI) must have a physical contact address in India published on its public platforms, to receive communications addressed to it.

The SSMI has to enable a mechanism that provides a unique ticket number for every complaint or grievance, which enables the complainant to track the status of such complaint or grievance as per the rule and Twitter is also responsible to submit compliance reports as mandated in the IT Rules, it said.

The Centre had earlier told the court that Twitter was prima facie in compliance with the new IT Rules by appointing the officers permanently.

Twitter had earlier said the appointed persons will work on a full-time basis and are fully capable of performing the functions in terms of the law.

On July 28, the court had expressed displeasure over Twitter appointing a contingent worker as CCO and said that the social media platform was in non-compliance with the new IT Rules.

The Centre had said in its affidavit that Twitter failed to comply with India's new IT Rules, which could lead to its losing immunity conferred under the IT Act.

Petitioner-lawyer Amit Acharya claimed that he came to know about the alleged non-compliance of IT Rules by Twitter when he tried to complain about a couple of tweets.

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 seek to regulate dissemination and publication of content in cyberspace, including social media platforms and were notified in February by the central government.

Twitter facing heat over compliance with the new IT rules

Twitter had been facing heat over compliance with the IT rules that mandate various clauses for large digital platforms.

In late May, Twitter released a statement expressing concern with what it said were “intimidation tactics” in India. Twitter said it was concerned about its employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression.

"Right now, we are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve," Twitter said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Electronics and IT tweeted its own statement asking the social media site to “stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land”.

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Earlier, the Centre alleged that Twitter refused to comply with new digital rules requiring identification of the originator of a flagged message and appointing grievance redressal officers and the purported commitment of the US-based firm to India not only sounds hollow but completely self-serving.

Under the new digital rules, social media companies like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have been asked to identify within 36 hours the originator of a flagged message as well as conduct additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Published on: Friday, September 24, 2021, 03:14 PM IST
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