India’s information technology ministry has issued “one last notice” to Twitter to comply with the country’s new social media rules, failing which the platform will lose its safe harbour protections and will be made liable for consequences as per the IT Act and other penal laws of India.
In a letter addressed to Jim Baker, Twitter’s US-based deputy general counsel, the government said that the company is yet to offer it details about its chief compliance officer in India as required under the new social media rules.
Entrackr has seen a copy of the letter sent on Saturday and its authenticity was confirmed by a senior government official.
In its letter, the ministry also said that the resident nodal and grievance officer appointed by Twitter is not an employee of the company, and the office address mentioned by Twitter to the government is that of a law firm. According to Twitter’s website, it has appointed Dharmendra Chatur as its interim grievance officer.
“However, as [a] gesture of goodwill, Twitter Inc. is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the Rules,” the ministry said.
Twitter declined to comment when we asked whether the allegations made by the ministry were indeed accurate. We have separately reached out to Baker and Manish Maheshwari, Twitter India’s managing director, for comment and will update the story if they respond.
The ministry also warned Twitter of the consequences of not adhering to the IT rules, saying that it will lose protections available to it as a social media intermediary.
In essence, revoking these protections will make Twitter liable for the content posted on its platform by its users which exposes the company to increased litigation.
The IT Ministry had sent a letter to all social media companies in the country on May 26—the day when the social media rules came into effect—asking them details about their compliance status with the rules.
However, in its letter sent today, the ministry said Twitter’s responses did not address clarifications sought by the ministry nor did they indicate full compliance with the rules.
The timing of this notice is particularly interesting as it comes on the same day Twitter removed the verified badge from the personal account of India’s Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and even some members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS — the ideological mentor of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — including the organisation’s chief Mohan Bhagwat.
The badge was later restored for Vice President Naidu’s account and in a statement, Twitter said that the verification badge was removed due to its inactive accounts policy which requires a user to log in at least once every six months.
We have asked Twitter if the accounts of the RSS functionaries too lost their verified badges under the same inactive accounts policy and if their verified badges will also be restored. We will update the story when it responds.
Twitter seems to be making news globally with its actions, taking on leaders and high ranking government officials by enforcing its policies.
After one such action in Nigeria where it deleted a tweet by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in which he referenced the Nigerian Civil War after it was flagged by many Nigerians to Twitter as offensive, the Nigerian government got back by announcing —on, yes, Twitter — that it was suspending the operations of Twitter in the country indefinitely.