Govt sends 'final notice' to Twitter for compliance with new IT rules

The Indian government has issued a final notice to social media giant Twitter for complying with the new IT rules for digital media intermediaries. 

Rakesh Maheshwari, group coordinator for cyber law at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), in a letter to Twitter’s deputy general counsel Jim Baker, noted that despite repeated letters from the ministry, Twitter had failed to provide adequate clarifications. 
“Till date, Twitter has not informed about the details of the Chief Compliance Officer as required under the rules. Further, Resident Grievance Officer and Nodal Contact Person nominated by you is not an employee of Twitter Inc. in India as prescribed in the Rules. The office address of Twitter Inc as mentioned by you is that of a law firm in India, which is also not as per the Rules,” read the letter, first shared on Twitter by ANI. 

"As gesture of goodwill, Twitter Inc is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the rules. Failure to comply will lead to Twitter losing exemption from liability under IT Act and draw penal provisions," the notice mentioned.

Section 79 of the IT Act grants social media platforms a ‘safe harbour’ or immunity from legal prosecution over the content that is circulated on their platforms. This is because most jurisdictions recognise that social media platforms don’t author the content but merely serve as platforms connecting a sender to a recipient. 

Earlier this month, Twitter in a statement expressed its willingness to comply with applicable laws in India, but expressed concern over users’ freedom of speech and privacy being compromised with the new IT Rules. The social media giant also talked about fearing for its employees’ safety in India, after a special cell of Delhi Police had visited Twitter’s Delhi and Gurugram offices to serve a notice.

On Saturday, Twitter removed and later restored the blue tick verification symbol from the personal account of India's vice president M Venkaiah Naidu. 

Reacting to the brief removal of the 'blue tick' from the vice president's handle, IT Ministry sources, to NDTV, termed it an "outrageous act", adding that vice president is a constitutional post. The sources also questioned whether Twitter would have done the same with American leaders in constitutional posts. 

Twitter reasoned that the 'blue tick' had been removed because the said account had been inactive since July 2020. "As explained in the Twitter verification policy, Twitter may remove the blue verified badge and verified status if the account becomes inactive or is incomplete. The verified badge of the Vice President's account has now been restored," it said in a statement.

Five senior functionaries of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, have also lost their 'blue tick' verification on Saturday for inactivity.

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