Meity said when an intermediary fails to observe the IT Rules, the intermediary could be liable for any punishment under any law for the time being in force in respect of the offending content.
The Central government on Monday informed the Delhi High Court that micro-blogging site Twitter has failed to comply with India’s law regulating tech companies rendering their services as ‘intermediaries’.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity), in an affidavit filed before the high court, stated that despite three months time being granted to all Significant Social Media Intermediaries (SSMIs) to comply with the Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021, Twitter has failed to fully comply with the same.
Twitter, last week, had informed the high court that the interim Resident Grievance Officer and the interim Nodal Contact Person in India had resigned from their positions in June. The tech giant had stated that it was in the final stages of appointing a replacement, meanwhile “the grievances of Indian users are being addressed by the Grievance Officer”.
The Meity, however, pointed out that as per the details gleaned from Twitter’s website, the grievances from India are currently being handled by its personnel situated in the United States of America “which amounts to non-compliance with the IT Rules 2021”.
In India, Section 79 of the IT Act shields social media platforms or intermediaries such as Twitter from liability for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by it in certain cases.
The Ministry said when an intermediary fails to observe the IT Rules, the intermediary could be liable for any punishment under any law for the time being in force in respect of the offending content.
“Respondent No.2 (Twitter Inc) is admittedly “intermediary” within the meaning of Section 2(1)(w) of IT Act, 2000 and an SSMI under the IT Rules 2021. In spite of the three months’ time granted to all SSMIs to comply with the IT Rules 2021 having expired on May 26, 2021, Respondent No. 2 has failed to fully comply with the same,” the Meity said.
The Ministry stated that the immunity conferred on intermediaries is a “conditional immunity” subject to the intermediary satisfying the various conditions.
“The IT Rules, 2021 are the law of the land and Respondent No. 2 (Twitter) is mandatorily required to comply with the same,” it added.
The Ministry’s affidavit came in response to a petition by advocate Amit Acharya, seeking to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer under Rule 4 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021.
Mr. Acharya, in his plea filed through advocates Akash Vajpai and Manish Kumar, had claimed that he wanted to raise grievance against two alleged “offensive and objectionable tweets” at the Resident Grievance Officer.
“However the Petitioner was unable to find the contact details of the Resident Grievance Officer on the website of Twitter,” he had said.
The petition said that from February 25, 2021 the Information Technology Rules 2021 have come into effect and the Centre had given three months’ time to every significant social media intermediary to comply with the Rules.