Tuesday, December 7, 2021

India warns defiant Twitter it must comply with new IT rules

Growing tensions with India's government is making some US tech giants rethink their Indian expansion plans.

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India’s technology minister said on Tuesday that Twitter has deliberately defied and failed to comply with the country’s new IT rules, which became effective in late May, Reuters is reporting.

The new rules, the so-called Intermediary Guidelines, are aimed at regulating content on social media platforms such as Facebook, its WhatsApp messenger and Twitter, making them more accountable to legal requests for swift removal of posts and the sharing of details on the originators of messages.

The rules also require social media companies to set up grievance redress mechanisms and appoint new executives to coordinate with law enforcement.

India’s technology ministry wrote to Twitter on June 5, warning the American microblogging and social networking company of “unintended consequences” if it did not obey the rules.

Technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad did not directly say on Tuesday whether Twitter had lost intermediary protections, but a senior government official told Reuters that Twitter may no longer be eligible to seek liability exemptions as an intermediary or the host of user content in India due to its failure to comply with new IT rules.

“There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision,” Prasad tweeted. “However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from May 26.”

Twitter, Prasad added, had chosen the “path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines”.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters, though the company said on Monday it was keeping India’s technology ministry apprised of the steps it was taking.

“An interim chief compliance officer has been retained and details will be shared with the ministry directly soon,” it said. “Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with the new guidelines.

New Delhi-based digital advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation said it was only up to the courts, and not the government, to decide whether companies such as Twitter remained intermediaries for alleged non-compliance such as appointment of executives.

Growing tensions between India’s government and US big tech have riled firms that have spent millions of dollars to build hubs in their largest growth market, to the extent some are rethinking their expansion plans, people close to the matter have told Reuters.

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