Twitter has alleged abuse of power by government officials and sought judicial review of some content removal orders
Twitter has reportedly alleged that some of the content removal orders fell short of the procedural requirements of India's IT Act
Recently, the IT Ministry had sent a notice to the microblogging platform for its alleged failure to comply with the IT Rules, and warned it to do so by July 4
Social media giant Twitter has taken the Indian government to court and is seeking to overturn some of the content takedown orders.
Twitter has alleged abuse of power by government officials and sought judicial review of the content removal orders, news agency Reuters reported on Tuesday (July 5).
Twitter has requested the review saying some of the content removal orders fell short of the procedural requirements of India’s IT Act, a source was quoted as saying. However, the source didn’t specify the orders that Twitter wants to be reviewed.
In its lawsuit, Twitter said that some block orders “pertain to political content that is posted by official handles of political parties.”
“Blocking of such information is a violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed to citizen-users of the platform. Further, the content at issue does not have any apparent proximate relationship to the grounds under Section 69A,” Twitter said.
The micro-blogging website has also alleged that the government has also threatened to open criminal proceedings against its chief compliance officer if the company fails/didn’t comply with orders.
The IT ministry has not responded to the issue yet.
The development comes on the back of the IT Ministry’s notice to Twitter alleging that the platform failed to comply with the IT Rules, 2021. The ministry also warned the platform to comply with the rules by July 4.
“If Twitter Inc. continues to violate these Directions and therefore the IT Act, significant consequences under the IT Act shall prevail…“Consequences may include ‘loss of immunity as available (to) an intermediary under subsection (1) of section 79 of the IT Act and (will be) liable to punishment to offences as prescribed in the IT Act 2000,” the ministry’s notice to the microblogging platform said.
Under the IT Rules, the social media platforms can get the status of being intermediaries and they would have to abide by the regulation and the guidelines.
Under Section 79 of the IT Act, “an intermediary shall not be liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him.”
The provision and the government’s warning to Twitter hence make it clear that if the intermediary status is removed for the platform, it could end up in serious trouble.
However, as per another report by PTI on July 5, Twitter had finally complied with the notice.
On the other hand, Twitter has been publishing its monthly transparency reports, adhering to the new IT Rules that mandate all social media platforms with over 5 Mn users to do so. According to Statista, Twitter has 23.5 Mn users in India as of January 2022.
Between April 26 and May 25 this year, Twitter banned over 46,000 accounts for violating its guidelines, while it took down 1,077 URLs for violating norms related to online harassment.
The IT Rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code), 2021 for social media apps, online news portals, news aggregators and OTT platforms came into effect on May 26, 2021 to provide an “open, safe and trusted and accountable” internet for all Indian users. Recently, the government also sought public opinion on the draft amendments to the rules.
As per the government, the proposed amendments to the IT rules will provide additional avenues for grievance redressal apart from the courts.
This is not the first time that the US-listed Twitter has been at loggerheads with the government. In May 2021, when the rules were introduced and following some major political turmoil, a similar notice was issued to the company. The Delhi High Court then ordered the microblogging platform to adhere to the IT Rules.
As per a Statista report, Twitter had the third-largest user base in India with about 24 Mn users as of January 2022.