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Exclusive: Twitter appoints former ByteDance executive Shahin Komath as permanent Nodal Contact Person in India

Being a significant social media intermediary, Twitter is mandated by the IT Rules to make permanent appointments to key managerial positions. 

You are reading it here first: Twitter has appointed Shahin Komath, a former executive at Bytedance as the permanent nodal contact person (NCP) for Twitter in India. Although Komath was not named, the fact that the microblogging platform has appointed a permanent NCP along with a permanent grievance redressal-cum-chief compliance officer was conveyed to the Delhi High Court on Friday.

When MediaNama contacted Komath, he confirmed the appointment; however, he refused to comment in this regard. According to the IT Rules 2021, a Nodal Contact Person will be responsible for “24×7 coordination with law enforcement agencies” for ensuring compliance to their orders or requisitions. It is mandatory for the person to be a resident of India.

Komath’s LinkedIn page described him as the former Nodal and Grievance Officer of ByteDance from March 2020 to January 2021. He was also the Nodal and Regulatory Officer for Vodafone Idea from December 2011 to March 2020. His LinkedIn page also said that he was an advocate at the Kerala High Court for a year.

Why it matters? Twitter’s appointment of a permanent nodal contact person would mean that the microblogging platform is now in full compliance with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. Since the IT Rules came into effect, Twitter took more than a month to partially comply with the rules. In the meantime, several cases were booked against Twitter Inc and Twitter India over ‘objectionable’ content on the platform. The government, during a Delhi High Court hearing, had declared that the platform’s safe harbour immunity under the IT Act 2000 has been withdrawn, which implies that Twitter can be held liable for the content on its platform.

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Interim grievance officer Vinay Prakash made permanent, will also serve as chief compliance officer

While hearing a plea against non-compliance by Twitter India and Twitter Inc with the IT Rules 2021, Senior advocate Sajan Poovayya said, “We have appointed permanent people on 4th (August 4). We got the affidavit notarised on 5th (August 5) in the USA.” Upon further queries by Justice Rekha Palli, Poovayya clarified that the permanent grievance redressal and chief compliance officers are one person.

Sources confirmed to MediaNama that Vinay Prakash, who was appointed as the interim grievance officer in July, was made permanent on August 4. During a previous hearing, Justice Rekha Palli had expressed her displeasure about the appointment of interim officers, despite the Information Technology Rules, 2021 mandating that significant social media intermediaries (SSMIs) such as Twitter have to make permanent appointments to these positions.

“This Court is unable to appreciate as to why the note dated 08.07.2021, and the e-mail attached therein sent by the Deputy General Counsel and Vice President (Legal) of the respondent no.2, talks about the interim appointment of the three officers required to be appointed in compliance of Rule 4(1)(a), (b) & (c) of the 2021 IT Rules, i.e., the Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person, Resident Grievance Officer, when the statutory provisions mandates permanent appointments. In any case, since no affidavit has been filed by the respondent no.2, it is deemed appropriate, as prayed for, to grant it two more weeks to file the same,” Justice Rekha Palli had previously said.

A brief background on the case: This case at the Delhi High Court was filed by advocate Amit Acharya a few days after May 26, which was the last date ascertained by the Indian government for significant social media intermediaries (with more than 50 lakh registered users) such as Twitter to comply with the IT Rules 2021. Here’s a brief timeline regarding the court hearings —

What do the IT rules require?

The IT rules require social media intermediaries to –

  • Appoint key managerial roles: Significant Social media intermediaries (with more than 50 lakh registered users) must appoint a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and resident grievance officer, all of whom must be Indian residents and employees of the platform
  • Disable content within 36 hours of government order: The rules also ask intermediaries to provide information for verification of identity or assist any government agency for crime prevention and investigations no later than 72 hours of receiving a lawful order. They also have to preserve records of disabled content for 180 days.
  • Proactively identify and take down content using automated tools
  • Publish periodic compliance reports

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

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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