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India: Twitter gets stripped of liability protection

Twitter loses liability protection in India. To be held responsible for everything users say on its platform.

Twitter has lost its immunity in India due to its non-compliance with the new local IT rules, a court filing revealed on Monday. Twitter has not complied with any of these requirements, the court filing said.

“I state the immunity conferred on intermediaries under section 79(1) is a conditional immunity subject to the intermediary satisfying the conditions under sections 79(2) and 79(3). As provided in Rule 7, failure to observe the IT Rules 2021 results in provisions of Section 79(1) of the IT Act, 2000 not being applicable to such an intermediary,” N Samaya Balan of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology wrote in the filing.

What this implies is that Twitter is on paper responsible for everything users say on its platform.

Internet services like Twitter enjoy “safe harbor” protections that say that tech platforms won’t be held liable for the things their users post or share online. For instance, if person A insults person B on Twitter, the company may be asked to take down person A comment (if person B gets a takedown order from the court), but it likely won’t be held legally responsible for person A said or did. Since Twitter has lost this immunity, it will be held accountable henceforth.

The rule that came into effect late May require any significant social media firm (any firm with over 5 million users in India) to appoint a chief compliant officer, a resident grievance officer, and a so-called nodal contact person to address on-ground concerns.

“All social media platforms are welcome to do business in India. They can criticize Ravi Shankar Prasad, my Prime Minister or anyone. The issue is of misuse of social media. Some of them say we are bound by American laws. You operate in India, make good money, but you will take the position that you’ll be governed by American laws. This is plainly not acceptable,” India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a conference last week.

With the liability protection stripped off, Twitter executives in India could face several criminal charges over content deemed objectionable on the platform. Indian police have already filed at least five cases against the company or its officials in the country over a range of issues, TechCrunch reported.

India in focus

GDP: $2.262 trillion compared to $2.871 trillion in 2019

Population: 1.38 billion in 2020 compared to 1.366 billion in 2019

GDP per capita: $1,900 in 2020 compared to $2,100 in 2019