Social media platform Twitter has to comply with the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the Delhi High Court said on Monday. This means that the microblogging app will have to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer in the country.
The court has granted three weeks time to Twitter to put on record that it has made an appointment of the said officer, according to an update by the Indian Express. The court issued a notice to the social media platform and Centre in connection with a petition alleging non-compliance of IT Rules, 2021 by the US-based company.
Justice Rekha Palli listed the case for next hearing on July 6. While Twitter claimed before the court that it has complied with the rules and appointed a resident grievance officer, the central government disputed the claim.
Twitter told the court that the officer was appointed on May 28 in compliance with the rules. Justice Rekha Palli issued notice to the Centre and social media platform Twitter seeking their stand on a plea by a lawyer, Amit Acharya, claiming non-compliance of the rules by it.
In his plea, filed through advocate Akash Vajpai and Manish Kumar, Acharya said that he came to know about the alleged non-compliance when he tried to lodge a complaint against a couple of tweets.
Last week, the IT ministry had written to all social media firms to submit a compliance status with the new IT rules. Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Sharechat, Telegram, LinkedIn and Koo are said to have shared details of their chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and grievance officer. These are some of the significant social media intermediaries — platforms with over 5 Mn users — as defined by the rules.
Such websites and apps are required to appoint chief compliance officers, resident grievance officers and other employees specifically to deal with the requirements under the law.
A day after Twitter pitched for a constructive dialogue with the Indian government, a petition was filed in the Delhi High Court against the microblogging website over non-compliance with the said policy. The petition says that Twitter must perform its statutory and executive duties as a “significant social media intermediary”.
Twitter Vs Central Govt
The spat between Twitter and the central government accelerated after Twitter India flagged a tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as ‘manipulated media’ on May 21. In that tweet, Patra had alleged Indian National Congress was indulging in a PR exercise by working according to a ‘toolkit’ to amplify the support given to Covid patients in the country. India’s ministry of electronics and IT had reportedly asked Twitter to remove the “manipulated media” tag attached to Patra’s post.
A few days after the Indian government’s reported request, Twitter India’s offices in Delhi’s Lado Sarai and Gurugram were raided by a special team of Delhi Police on May 24 evening. Notably, the Delhi Police comes under the jurisdiction of the central government of India, which is led by the BJP. The microblogging platform has also raised redflags over “the use of intimidation tactics by the police”.
Twitter in its recent statement said that it is deeply committed to the people of India and its service has proven vital for public conversation as well as a source of support for people during the pandemic.
The platform said it is willing to comply with India’s latest IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021, which will give the Indian government greater control over social media. The company has, however, sought a minimum of three-month extension for it to implement the intermediary guidelines. Facebook too will be complying with the IT Rules and is working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies. WhatsApp, on the other hand, has sued the Indian government over these policies, under which the company will have to share the details of the “first originator of information” when authorities demand it.