A fight between the Indian government and social media platform Twitter is nothing new. They’ve been constantly fighting with each other for the past couple of years. Clearly there is a lack of trust between the two and this is constantly manifesting itself.
This time, Twitter has moved the Karnataka Supreme Court against government orders to remove certain content that is allegedly controversial and against the interest of the nation. Twitter’s latest act of intransigence is a response to the Indian government’s warning of ‘serious consequences’ for failing to comply with such orders.
Incidentally, shortly after it emerged that Twitter was moving the court on the matter, Union Minister of State for Entrepreneurship, Skills Development, Electronics and Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, said that all foreign internet platforms had to comply with the Indian laws.
Earlier, Union Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the Indian government would make social media responsible for its content. “Accountability for social media has become a valid issue globally. It is important to hold it accountable, which will start with self-regulation first, then industry regulation, followed by government regulation.”
#TuesdayMusing In India, everyone, including foreign internet intermediaries/platforms, is entitled to a judicial review. But equally ALL intermediaries/platforms operating here have an unequivocal obligation to comply with our laws and rules. #Open #Reliable Insurance #Responsible #InternetJuly 5, 2022
Twitter was asked by Indian authorities last year to take action on content, including accounts supporting an independent Sikh state (Khalistan), posts that allegedly spread misinformation about farmer protests, and tweets critical of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Indian government has previously said that major social media companies, including Twitter, have failed to comply with takedown orders despite their legal status.
Twitter is claiming in its request for judicial review that some government takedown orders fell short of the procedural requirements of India’s IT Act. “Be any company, in any industry, they must abide by the laws of India. It is everyone’s responsibility to abide by the laws passed by Parliament,” replied the IT minister.
Under the amended IT rules, social media and streaming companies are required to remove contentious content and appoint country-based grievance redress officers to handle online content flagged by authorities and courts and assist with investigations.
Failure to comply with the laws will result in the platform being held liable in the event of a claim against any content on it. Failure to comply with the new policies will mean that the platform will lose their intermediary status which grants them immunity from liability for any data shared/hosted on their platform.
Smart Twitter in half
In the past, Twitter has been guilty of delay tactics and has taken forever to appoint redress officers, and has nearly lost its legal immunity and also received criticism from its courts.
In general, the perception is that Twitter, without complying with the laws and trying to play the victim, is resorting to a half-wit strategy. There is also growing discontent among a section of users who allege that the platform is indulging in arbitrary acts in removing content. On the other hand, other platforms like Meta and WhatsApp had no problem complying with local laws. Twitter has always been reluctant to follow Indian laws.
The government has made it clear that no social media company can undermine citizens’ constitutional rights, and the internet must be a safe and trusted place, with all platforms accountable to their users. According to estimates, Twitter has over 24 million users in India.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary panel suggested that these social media platforms be treated as publishers and recommended a regulatory body to oversee them. This potentially puts these entities to take more responsibility for what is essentially user-generated content.
Strict rules are being considered because current laws that treat these social media platforms as “middlemen” haven’t done enough in terms of regulation.