Science & Technology

Twitter may ‘lose’ safe harbour protection as govt says it ‘failed’ to fill key positions

Microblogging platform Twitter is likely to lose its status as a social media intermediary and, in turn, the legal protection accorded to it under Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, sources in the know of the development told The Indian Express.

“The government believes that whoever has not yet complied with the guidelines has lost the intermediary status. For Twitter now, any and all penal action that is applicable under the Indian Penal Code will be applicable,” a source close to the development said.

Section 79 says any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.

As of June 15, Twitter remained the only platform among significant social media intermediaries to not have appointed the required executives in those roles despite reminders from the government, sources said.

In response to an emailed query on the development, Twitter said it was keeping the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) updated of the progress of appointments at each stage of the process.

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

Guidelines issued in February required all significant social media intermediaries to designate executives for these roles by May 26. On May 26, the ministry had written to these intermediaries asking them to furnish the details of all the appointments made as soon as possible. Over the next week, all major social media intermediaries complied.

Though Twitter also announced that it had appointed personnel to the position of resident grievance office and nodal contact person and was in process of appointing a chief compliance officer, officials said since these appointments were not as per the requirements under new IT rules, they would not be considered.

“We sent them (Twitter) last notice on June 5, to which they replied on June 6 that they had appointed a resident grievance officer and a nodal contact person on a contractual basis, and sought one week to appoint a chief compliance officer. It has been more than 10 days since that and there has been no response,” a senior government official said.

With its status as intermediary gone, Twitter has been reduced to the status of a publisher and therefore the rule which caps foreign investment in media publishers at 26 per cent, will also be applicable, another official said.

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