The GoI recently issued orders to the social media giant instructing it to block certain content on the grounds that they do not pass the IT Act.
Twitter’s Side of the Story:
The micro-blogging giant has moved the Karnataka high court, against the Centre’s order to block contents. Twitter argues that some of the directives are not in line with the legal provisions and suggest “disproportionate use of power”.
Filing a writ petition Twitter seeks a judicial review against this order. Resorting to legal measures as a result of the expiry of the July 4 deadline, which required the American Platform to comply with the directives issued by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY).
As per the sources, the media giant alleged that numerous blocking orders issued, “cite” the grounds of Section 69.
However, they fail to explicitly mention the grounds on which particular content was violative. Twitter was instructed to act on the notices to take down content under Section 69 of the IT act.
Moreover, in June, MeitY had served notice to the company over non-compliance, warning of serious ramifications including criminal proceedings against the Chief Compliance Officer and loss of “safe harbour immunity”.
The immunity provides the company protection against third-party content posted on its platform.
Twitter moved the court on the grounds that the blocking order is procedurally and substantially deficient of the requirement of Section 69A.
Though the ministry had earlier said that taking down the user account should be a “last resort” yet in certain cases there are demands for entire accounts to be blocked. This demonstrates abuse of power.
Meanwhile Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrashekhar wrote, “In India, all incldng foreign Internet intermediaries/platforms have right to court n judicial review.
But equally ALL intermediary/platforms operating here, have unambiguous obligation to comply with our laws n rules.”
In its notice to Twitter that was sent on June 27, the IT ministry pointed out that despite the non-compliance notices delivered on June 6 and 9, the social media intermediary had not responded, and therefore, the ministry was taking action as prescribed under the relevant section of the IT Act of 2000.
Twitter has incessantly defied the order of take down by the GoI failing repeatedly to act on the notices issued under Section 69 of the IT Act. Recently, the media giant has also defied the non-compliance notice.
The Government of India and Twitter have been at loggerheads even in the past over taking down content.
In May last year, Twitter refused to comply with the IT Rules as they came into effect. However, MeitY had warned Twitter of losing its intermediary status over non-compliance.
The company was instructed to appoint a resident grievance officer, a resident chief compliance officer along with a nodal contact person. Failing to comply with this they would risk losing the protection granted to it under Section 79 of the IT Act.
In a fit, Twitter has accused the GoI of “dangerous overreach that is inconsistent with open, democratic principles,” citing further that it had been forced to ‘withhold’ (block in India) portions of “legitimate free speech” on its platform over fears around the safety of its employees and threats of financial penalties.
The IT rules have been a hard-nut to crack for many media giants but it is under the discretion of the government in question to safeguard its citizens.
However, one mustn’t forget that India is a Democracy with Freedom of Speech and Expression as one of the six pillars.