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Twitter has lost immunity under IT Act 2000 due to non-compliance with IT Rules 2021: Union government

In another affidavit filed in the Delhi HC, Twitter said that it was in the final stages of appointing people to the key positions mandated by the new IT Rules.

Due to non-compliance with the Information Technology Rules 2021, Twitter has lost the immunity conferred on intermediaries under section 79(1) of the IT Act (2000) the Union government informed the Delhi High Court in an affidavit.

Ever since May 25 which was the last date to comply with the IT Rules, Twitter has been embroiled in a series of controversies, from its tussle with Delhi Police regarding the ‘manipulated media’ tag to various cases filed against Twitter India employee Manish Maheshwari.

The affidavit (a copy of which MediaNama has seen) which was filed by Scientist E in the Cyber Law Group of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) N Samaya Balan, said that Twitter has failed to comply with the IT Rules on multiple fronts —

  • Chief Compliance Officer has not been appointed
  • The position of the Resident Grievance Officer is vacant
  • The position of Nodal Contact Person (even on an interim basis) is vacant
  • The physical contact address, which was shown to be there on May 29, is once again not available on Twitter’s website

Thus, the Union government said that it amounts to a breach of the provisions of the IT Rules 2021 “thereby leading to Respondent No 2 losing its immunity conferred under section 79(1) of the IT Act, 2000”.

Balan said, “I state the immunity conferred on intermediaries under section 79(1) is a conditional immunity subject to the intermediary satisfying the conditions under sections 79(2) and 79(3). As provided in Rule 7, failure to observe the IT Rules 2021 results in provisions of Section 79(1) of the IT Act, 2000 not being applicable to such an intermediary.”

Despite 3 months’ time, Twitter has failed to comply with the rules: Govt

The Union government said that IT Rules 2021 was notified in February 2021, and significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) such as Twitter were given 3 months to comply with the rules. “In spite of the 3 months’ time granted to all SSMIs to comply with IT rules 2021 having expired on 29.05.2021, Respondent No 2 has failed to fully comply with the same.”

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Balan told the Delhi High Court, which is set to hear the petition filed by advocate Amit Acharya against Twitter for alleged non-compliance to the IT Rules 2021 today, that Twitter had initially appointed an interim Resident Grievance Officer (Dharmendra Chatur) and interim Nodal Contact Person. However, Chatur recently withdrew from his position, and meanwhile, Jeremy Kessel a, US national, has been acting as the grievance redressal officer for Twitter India.

Taking cognisance of this development, the Union government said, “Later the Respondent No.2 (Twitter Inc) informed the answering Respondent that the said interim Resident Grievance Officer and Nodal Officer have withdrawn/resigned from their positions. I submit that as per the details gleaned from the Respondent No. 2 website/mobile application, in the interim the grievances from India are being handled by personnel of Respondent No. 2 situated in the United State of America which amounts to non-compliance with the IT Rules 2021.”

Twitter in the final stages of appointing key persons

In an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court, Twitter said that it was in the final stages of appointing a grievance redressal officer and an interim chief compliance officer. Twitter said that when it was in the process of ‘formalising’ the appointment of the interim resident grievance officer (Chatur), he withdrew his candidature. Thus, as of now, the social media platform said that it was “in the final stages of appointing a replacement while in the meanwhile the grievances of Indian users are being addressed by the grievance officer”.

The affidavit was filed in response to a notice issued by the Delhi High Court while hearing a petition filed by advocate Amit Acharya wherein he alleged that Twitter had not complied with the new IT Rules 2021 as he claimed that he was unable to find the details of a resident grievance officer on the microblogging platform’s website. The advocate had urged the HC to direct Twitter to appoint a resident grievance officer and to implement other sections of the new rules.

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