Twitter on Wednesday shared with the government details of the interim compliance officer it has appointed as per the new social media guidelines that came into effect on May 26, people familiar with the matter said.
The move came after Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hit out at the company for “deliberately” choosing not to comply with the guidelines while officials said Twitter will lose its legal protection from penal action for third party content over the non-compliance.
HT reached out to the electronics and information technology ministry for comments but did not receive a response immediately. There was also no immediate response from Twitter.
An official separately told HT that Twitter will be considered an intermediary once it follows the new Information Technology (IT) rules. The official said Twitter will no longer be protected from penal action under Section 79 of the IT Act, which absolves social media firms of liability for third-party content, if it did not do so.
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The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules were notified in February. They require significant social media intermediaries, which have five million users or above, to appoint a chief compliance officer, nodal officer and grievance redressal officer. Until Wednesday, Twitter was the only major social media firm that had not shared the details of the compliance. WhatsApp, Facebook and Google shared the details in May.
Twitter on Tuesday said it has appointed the interim chief compliance officer and the details of the appointment will be shared directly with the ministry. The decision came after the government gave Twitter one last chance to comply with the new rules as the microblogging platform did not make immediate appointments of key personnel, mandated under the new guidelines.
Twitter assured the government last week that it is in the advanced stages of finalising the appointment of the chief compliance officer and would submit additional details within a week.
Twitter this month conveyed to the government that it was “committed to complying with the new rules”, even as it raised concerns regarding the safety of its employees in the country and intimidation by the police. It sought a week to comply with the new guidelines after the government issued it an ultimatum saying Twitter would have to face “unintended consequences” including losing its legal protection from criminal liability for user content.
The guidelines also require companies such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook to change how they regulate content and adopt features such as traceability of messages and voluntary user verification.
Against this backdrop, the new IT rules hardened the stand-off last month, with Twitter earlier asking for three months to comply, raising concerns over the “core elements” of the norms, and flagging potential threats to the safety of its employees after a visit by the Delhi Police.
The new rules have been contested by several parties, including WhatsApp which has argued that the traceability provision mandated in the guidelines would violate end-to-end encryption.
Raman Chima, Asia Pacific policy director, Access Now, a digital civil rights organisation, said the government does not have the sole authority to device how intermediaries are able to make use of the legal protection granted to them by Parliament. “Whether the government’s rules are constitutional and whether partial or incomplete compliance impacts this legal immunity provided in law will ultimately be decided by judges, and not just by the executive branch.”