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Like Twitter, Facebook’s correspondence address is that of a law firm

The Delhi-based correspondence address provided by Facebook for grievances is that of a law firm, Entrackr reported on Thursday. Earlier, the Indian government had reprimanded Twitter for providing a law firm’s address for the same purpose, but Facebook does not appear to have received a similar objection from the government, the report stated.

The address given by Facebook: 216 Okhla Industrial Estate, Phase III, New Delhi – 110020, is that of law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. It is not known if the Grievance Officer, Spoorthi Priya, is a Facebook employee, which is something that the rules require, the report added. However, sources told Entrackr that the appointment is an interim arrangement and not permanent.

What exactly do the rules say?

Rule 4(1) of the rules state that the three managerial roles must be filled by employees of the intermediary who are residents of India.

Rule 4(5) of the rules state that “the significant social media intermediary shall have a physical contact address in India published on its website, mobile-based application or both, as the case may be, for the purposes of receiving the communication addressed to it.”

The rules do not clearly specify that the address must be the company’s own address and not that of a law firm or any other company representing it. Only in the letter sent to Twitter does the government indicate that the address cannot be that of a law firm.

Timeline of events

February 25, 2021: The government released the new Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, which among other things requires significant social media intermediaries to appoint three key managerial positions: nodal contact person, Grievance Officer, Chief Compliance Officer.

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May 25, 2021: The last day to comply with the rules. Major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp had not complied with the rules by the end of the day.

May 26, 2021: The IT Ministry sent a letter to all social media intermediaries asking them to submit details about their compliance status such as name and contact details for the three roles mandated by the rules and a physical contact address in India for the platform.

May 31, 2021: Twitter on May 31 told the Delhi High Court that it has appointed a grievance redressal officer in line with the new rules. MediaNama was able to verify from Twitter’s website that the company appointed Dharmendra Chatur, a partner designate at law firm Poovayya & Co, as an interim grievance redressal officer. The address given by Twitter was also the law firm’s Bengaluru address.

June 5, 2021: A “last notice” letter sent by the government to Twitter objected to Twitter’s compliance saying that the resident Grievance Officer and nodal contact person nominated by the platform are not employees of the platform and the office address of Twitter is that of a law firm in India.

June 7, 2021: Twitter responded by saying that it has appointed a nodal contact person and resident grievance officer on a contractual basis as an interim measure and will recruit to fill the positions on a permanent basis.

June 16, 2021: Multiple reports citing unnamed government sources stated that Twitter has lost its status as an intermediary for failing to comply with the rules. IT Minister RS Prasad tweeted saying that despite being given multiple opportunities to comply, “the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the Intermediary Guidelines.” However, there was no official government notification made in regard to Twitter’s status as an intermediary.

Twitter facing battle on multiple fronts

Manipulated media case: Delhi police served a notice and visited two offices of Twitter in May in connection with an alleged Indian National Congress-created toolkit. Twitter had labelled tweets of BJP politicians including spokesperson Sambit Patra and others on the alleged toolkit prepared by Congress as “manipulated media.” The tweets alleged that Congress had created this toolkit to defame the Prime Minister and “undermine” the government’s Covid-19 vaccination policy. Soon after, Delhi Police sent a notice to Twitter seeking clarification on the usage of the term “manipulated media” since the matter was under investigation.

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Ghaziabad case: On Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh police lodged an FIR against Twitter and others in connection with tweets on an elderly man who was allegedly assaulted in Ghaziabad. Twitter was named as an accused in the case as it had allegedly failed to delete ‘provocative’ tweets despite clarification regarding the matter by Ghaziabad Police. Earlier today, the Ghaziabad Police sent a legal notice to the Managing Director of Twitter India in connection with the case, asking the official to himself in the Loni Border station within a week.

Standing Committee notice: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology has asked Twitter to appear before them on June 18 on the subject of safeguarding citizen rights and misuse of social media/news platforms. According to the schedule of committee meetings, available on the Lok Sabha website, the meeting was being held “to hear the views of representatives of Twitter followed by evidence of representatives of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the subject of safeguarding citizens rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in digital space.”

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