The matter kicked off in February with the announcement of IT rules for social media platforms and digital news outlets by the government of India under the IT Act.
The most dominant item in the news circle in the past few months is the take of the Indian government on the American SM corporation, Twitter.
Amongst other regulations, the rules mandated to set up a compliance team residing in India and to take down any content within 36 hours on being asked to do so by the GoI.
The expert opinion on these rules has not been positive. They argue that the laws interfere with ‘the idea of a free and open internet’ built on international human rights standards.
The government’s antagonism towards Twitter has been on display since November 2020, in connection with the farmers’ protests, much before these rules came into action.
In February 2021, the government had demanded to take down the accounts criticizing the state in connection to the farmers’ protests, to which Twitter initially refused but eventually relented.
Head of Twitter India was also sought to question by
in June 2021 for publishing hate crime allegations of an elderly Muslim man on its platform.
Cases were also filed against Twitter for issuing an incorrect map of India and the availability of child pornography content on its platform.
Recent Updates on the Matter
In the most recent update, Twitter has informed the Delhi High Court that it has appointed four permanent officers in compliance with the new IT rules.
The microblogging site has appointed a Chief Compliance Officer – CCO, a resident grievance officer – RGO and a nodal contact person permanently.
However, the court has asked Twitter to bring the affidavit filed in this regard on record.
Sajan Poovayya, senior advocate representing Twitter, said that the company has filed an affidavit and appointed four permanent officials for the posts of CCO, RGO, and a nodal contact person on August 4, in compliance with the High Court’s earlier order.
The court is sceptical about the appointments complying and needs to verify, said Chetan Sharma, additional solicitor general.
The microblogging platform was earlier non-compliant with the rules by appointing ‘a contingent worker’ as CCO, and the court had expressed displeasure over it.
The Government’s Notice to the Digital platforms
The Information Technology rules by the government of India in February 2021 notified social media platforms and cyberspace that they need to regulate the dissemination and publication of their content.
The authorities asked for a mandatory appointment of a key managerial person or a senior employee as CCO by SM platforms.
It must be noted that Twitter had earlier disclosed the appointment of ‘a contingent worker ‘through a third-party contractor in its affidavit.
The court had not only asked Twitter to reveal all the details of the selection of CCO and RGO but also to clarify when the position of nodal contact person will be filled and why he hasn’t been appointed yet.
The court also granted Twitter time to show its compliance with the IT rules via an affidavit. The Centre had also mentioned that by failing to comply with the new IT rules of India, Twitter might lose its immunity under the IT act.
This alleged non-compliance of IT rules by Twitter came into light when Amit Acharya, petitioner-lawyer represented by senior advocate G Tushar Rao, tried to complain against a couple of tweets.
The Looming Outlook
The Indian government is going to seamless lengths to control speech by putting new laws into action. The fact that Twitter, a powerful space for conversations, is reluctant is unpalatable to the state.
The government is wanting its power to control speech back and set its narrative amongst the masses. Twitter has now brought itself into a position where the government is hesitant to trust it.
Since it has always been reluctant to comply with the IT rules by the government of India. By putting pressure on Twitter, the government is serving its purpose to warn the entire social media industry that the government has the power to control the narrative.