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Ghaziabad Police sends notice to Twitter MD over Loni assault video: Reports

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Ghaziabad Police has sent a legal notice to the Managing Director of Twitter India in connection with a viral video of an elderly man in the Loni area of UP being assaulted, LiveLaw and ANI reported. The police asked the official to be present himself in the Loni Border PS in Ghaziabad district within a week.

A few days back the Loni Police Station registered cases against Twitter India, Twitter Inc, Congress politicians and journalists in regards to tweets that were posted over the case. 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. MediaNama has reached out to Twitter for a comment regarding the matter, and the post will be updated when we receive a response.

The present notice was sent to Twitter Communication India Private Limited’s Managing Director on June 17 to record his statement in regards to the case that was registered on June 15. The notice has been sent under Section 160 of the CRPC which states that a police officer investigating a matter has the power to summon any person who may have information regarding the matter being investigated or may be acquainted with the circumstances of the case.

The notice in Hindi written by the Loni Border Police Station when loosely translated to English said that some people had allegedly posted Tweets ‘to spread hatred among society’ and Twitter had not taken cognisance of these tweets despite there allegedly not being any evidence regarding the same.

A copy of the notice uploaded by LiveLaw, translated in English said, “Articles affecting harmony were promoted and such anti-social messages were allowed to go viral (on Twitter) continuously. The investigation of the registered complaint in respect of the said case is being done by me, in which your statement is required to be recorded. Therefore, you can register your statement in this regard as soon as you have received the letter.”

Why was Twitter named in the FIR?

On June 5, an elderly Muslim man was attacked in Loni in UP’s Ghaziabad district June 5. A Hindustan Times report said that the assailants also chopped 72-year-old Abdul Samad’s beard and forced him to chant religious slogans. A video of the incident went viral on social media platforms in the following days.

While it is being said that the attack is communal in nature, police deny that angle and maintain that it was an interpersonal matter that led to the attack. The FIR reportedly said that the Ghaziabad Police had clarified regarding the matter, but despite that, other accused named in the FIR did not delete their tweets and Twitter did not do anything regarding the same.

Quoting the FIR, a Wire report said, “These tweets were done with the intent of disturbing the peace in the society. The tweets not only created tension but also invoked fear among a particular community in Uttar Pradesh.”

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Implications of ‘non-compliance’ under IT Rules?

This FIR comes in the backdrop of multiple reports citing unnamed government sources who claimed that Twitter has lost its status as an intermediary for failing to comply with the IT Rules 2021. Non-compliance to the IT Rules means that Twitter may be liable for the content shared by users on its platform.

“There is no denying the fact that Twitter comes within the purview of IT Rules and is liable to comply with the same. As per the reports, the addition of Twitter as an accused in the case for non-compliance is as per the provisions of the Rules and the case will be tried accordingly. However, if Twitter feels it has duly complied with the Rules, it will have to prove its stand because the fact that Government has moved the Court shows that it feels the company is still far behind,” Siddharth Jain, co-founding partner, PSL Advocates and Solicitors had earlier told MediaNama.

Kritika Seth, Founding Partner, Victoriam Legalis – Advocates & Solicitors had said, “As an initial matter, it is important to understand that in accordance with Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, “intermediaries” are entitled to exemption from liability provided that the conditions regarding due diligence and intermediary not being the initiator or modifier of the information transmitted, inter alia, are fulfilled.

However, it is significant to note that Twitter would only be able to avail of this exemption prescribed under Section 79 of the IT Act, if it qualifies as an “intermediary” within the purview of the IT Act. In light of MEITYs notice to Twitter regarding compliance with the new rules and its potential loss of the exemption from liability as an intermediary under Section 79 as per the new rules, this issue will require an in-depth and detailed analysis of facts and circumstances to determine the probable standing of Twitter in such a matter. Also, the timelines of the acts being committed and the Section 79 exemption being available or unavailable to Twitter would be of utmost relevance in this matter — Kritika Seth, Founding Partner, Victoriam Legalis – Advocates & Solicitors

Last week, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology sent a letter to Twitter warning that if Twitter did not comply with the IR Rules then it would lose exemption from liability as an intermediary available under Section 79 of the IT Act 2000.

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Update, June 18, 1.07 pm: Added tags to the story

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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