The feud between Twitter and the ruling BJP government just got rougher for the popular micro-blogging site. Once again, it is the new IT rules which is the source of contention, which earlier cost Twitter its immunity which was provided under Section 79(1) of the IT Act, 2000. This time, the Delhi High Court gave the green signal to the government to go forward and take any action against Twitter, saying that no protection would be given to the social media giant.
The IT Rules were notified on February 25 and came into effect on May 26.
You may remember that Twitter had agreed to comply with the IT rules after the deadline had passed. Unfortunately, that did not come to be as it told the Delhi HC on Tuesday that it had not yet complied with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, but was in the process of doing so. The Delhi High Court allowed Twitter one day to explain when it would comply with the rules, observing that the social media giant was in defiance of the Rules and their attitude “is not permitted in this country.”
“The intermediaries were given three months to comply with the rules from February 26 onwards. It has been 41 days of non-compliance by Twitter,” the HC said during a public litigation hearing filed by Amit Acharya alleging that Twitter has not yet appointed a Resident Grievance Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, or any Nodal Contact Person even on an interim basis and its physical contact address is once again not available on Twitter website. as is mandated by the IT rules. Appointing a resident grievance officer is one of the several norms which social media intermediaries, including Twitter, have to follow.
In the affidavit filed by him, Acharya said that he had come across some allegedly defamatory tweets, and on trying to register a complaint, he found contact details of a grievance officer located in the US on Twitter’s website or the mobile app.
On June 27, Twitter’s first interim resident grievance officer Dharmendra Chatur resigned, prompting Twitter to appoint its Global Legal Policy leader Jeremy Kessel as his successor. This was in violation of the IT rules, which mandated that only residents of India were eligible for the role. Hailing from California, Kessel does not meet that criterion.
The counsel for Twitter, senior advocate Sajan Poovaya, admitted that the company does not have a grievance officer as required by the Rules, something that displeased the bench headed by Justice Rekha Palli. Poovaya maintained, however, that they were in the process of appointing a new one.
“Twitter has given the court the wrong impression. The least you could have done after his [interim officer’s] resignation is appointing another person,” the bench said.
The High Court added that no protection would be provided to Twitter, leaving it open to action taken against it by the Centre, including being liable under law for third-party and user-generated content on Twitter’s platform. “We have already made it clear that if Twitter wants to function in India, they know what to do,” the court said. It asked Twitter to respond on all aspects of compliance under the new IT rules.