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Twitter has still not appointed a nodal contact person: MeitY in Parliament

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The ministry also responded to a parliamentary question on FIRs filed against Twitter and clarified that it has no plan to block any social media platform. 

Although Twitter has appointed a chief compliance officer and a resident grievance officer as required under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, it has still not designated a nodal contact person, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar informed the Parliament in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha.

“On that day (May 26, when IT Rules 2021 became fully effective) Twitter was non-compliant as it failed to appoint Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person and a Resident Grievance Officer as mandated in the Rules. Subsequently, they appointed Chief Compliance Officer and a Resident Grievance Officer as a contingent arrangement. Twitter has also not designated a Nodal contact person and the matter is sub-judice,” Chandrasekhar said in a written reply to a question by Rajya Sabha MP Amee Yajnik.

Why it matters? Twitter has been at odds with the government over the last few months. Since the IT Rules came into effect, the micro-blogging platform 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during a Delhi High Court hearing, declared that the platform’s safe harbour immunity under the IT Act 2000 has been withdrawn, which implies that Twitter can be held liable for the content on its platform.

While responding to another parliamentary question over whether an “FIR has been lodged against Twitter”, Chandrasekhar said, “MeitY is not involved in filing of any FIR against Twitter“. To another parliamentary question asking whether Twitter “has been found in anti-national work”, the Minister of State said, “No such action of Twitter is brought to the notice of Meity”.

A brief timeline of the tussle between Twitter and the Indian government

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

Government has no plan to block any social media platform

Meanwhile, in response to another question, this time by Rajya Sabha MP Kirodi Lal Meena, Chandrasekhar said the Indian government does not have any plan to ban any social media platform.

Under the provision of section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, Government blocks malicious online content, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order  or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above.  At present, Government has no plan to block any social media platform in the country – Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MoS MeitY

It is important to note that after May 26, the last date to comply with the IT Rules 2021, it was widely speculated that Twitter would be banned from India.

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Full text of questions and answers

Question on social media ban

Will the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology be pleased to state:(a) whether Government is aware of the fact that some social media platforms are allegedly trying to destroy country’s democracy;

(b) if so, the details thereof;

(c) whether Government has written any letter to the social media management authorities,  if so, the details thereof; and

(d) whether Government has any plan to ban any social media platform in the country, if so, the details thereof?

Answer

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(a) and (b): Indian democracy has its bedrock in its Constitution and constitutionally  guaranteed fundamental rights for every citizen. No social media platform or any other  intermediary can destroy our democracy. Our democracy can withstand any test and  challenge posed to it. It has, however, been noticed that some users do misuse social media  platforms to create hate and illwill amongst people of our country. Government receives  various grievances from users about this type of hate content and responds to them in an  appropriate way.

(c): Government regularly interacts with social media intermediaries on various issues  including issuing advisories to make these intermediaries safe and accountable to users.

(d) : Under the provision of section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, Government  blocks malicious online content, in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India,  defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order  or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above. At present, Government has no plan to block any social media platform in the country.

Question on Twitter

Will the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology be pleased to state:

(a) whether organizations like Twitter have acted against the rules in recent times; 

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(b) if so, action taken against it so far by Government;

(c) whether an FIR has been lodged against Twitter; (d) whether any action of Twitter has been found in anti-national work;and (e) if so, the details thereof?

Answer

(a) and (b): The social media platforms like Twitter are intermediaries as defined in the  Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. In order to ensure accountability of social media platforms to users and enhanced user safety, Government has notified the Information  Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which have  become fully effective from 26th May, 2021. On that day, Twitter was non-compliant as it failed to appoint Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person and a Resident Grievance Officer as mandated in the Rules. Subsequently, they appointed Chief Compliance Officer and a Resident  Grievance Officer as a contingent arrangement. Twitter has also not designated a Nodal contact person and the matter is sub-judice.

In case of non-compliance, rule 7 of the above said Rules becomes applicable and the intermediaries are liable to lose their exemption under section 79 of the Information Technology  Act, 2000.

(c): “Police” and “Public Order” are State subjects. Complaints reported against Twitter are dealt  by the respective Law Enforcement Authorities of States/Union Territories. MeitY is not involved in filing of any FIR against Twitter.

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(d) and (e): No such action of Twitter is brought to the notice of MeitY.

 

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

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