Taking it to Twitter, he also stated that, “It is astounding that Twitter which portrays itself as the flag bearer of free speech, chooses the path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines.”
Further, Twitter was given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however it has deliberately chosen the path of non compliance.
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) 1623823338000
The IT minister mentioned that “Indian companies be it pharma, IT or others that go to do business in USA or in other foreign countries, voluntarily follow the local laws. Then why are platforms like Twitter showing reluctance in following Indian laws designed to give voice to the victims of abuse and misuse?”
“However, if any foreign entity believes that they can portray itself as the flag bearer of free speech in India to excuse itself from complying with the law of the land, such attempts are misplaced,” he added.
In a series of tweets, Prasad also said that, “There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision. However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May.”
“India’s commitment to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech was yet again reaffirmed at the G7 summit. However, if any foreign entity believes that they can portray itself as the flag bearer of free speech in India to excuse itself from complying with the law of the land, such attempts are misplaced,” Prasad further wrote.
The minister said that what happened in Uttar Pradesh was illustrative of Twitter’s “arbitrariness” in fighting fake news. “While Twitter has been over-enthusiastic about its fact-checking mechanism, its failure to act in multiple cases like UP is perplexing as well as points towards its inconsistency in fighting misinformation,” he said.
It is pertinent to mention that an FIR has been filed against Twitter over an incident in Ghaziabad’s Loni where an elderly man was allegedly assaulted.
Twitter lost ‘safe harbour’ immunity
Twitter has lost the coveted “safe harbour” immunity in India over its failure to appoint statutory officers on the company’s role in line with the new IT rules, and its top executives, including the country managing director, could now face police questioning and criminal liability under IPC over ‘unlawful’ and ‘inflammatory’ content posted on the platform by any user.
With this, Twitter becomes the only American platform to have lost the protective shield – granted under Section 79 of the IT Act, even though others such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram remain protected, official sources said.
New IT rules
The new rules, announced on February 25, require large social media platforms — defined as those with over 50 lakh users in the country — to follow additional due diligence, including appointment of chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer.
Non-compliance with rules would result in these platforms losing their intermediary status that provides them immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them. In other words, they could be liable for criminal action in case of complaints.