Twitter will lose legal protection as an 'intermediary' under Section 79 in India: Reports
Tech giant Twitter will lose its status as an "intermediary" under Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act for its non-adherence to the new IT rules in India, multiple reports quoted Central government sources. "The government believes that whoever has not yet complied with the guidelines has lost the intermediary status. For Twitter now, any and all penal action that is applicable under the Indian Penal Code will be applicable,” The Indian Express reported.
The main reason cited for the action was the company's failure to comply with rules to appoint certain nodal officers within India. However, Twitter on Tuesday had said it had appointed an interim Chief Compliance Officer and that the details of the official will be shared directly with the IT ministry soon.
What is a consequence of losing the intermediary privilege? Section 79 of the IT Act states that an intermediary will not be liable for any "third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him". In essence, the companies could be held criminally responsible for content on their platforms.
Twitter has had several faceoffs with the Indian government over the past months, including during the farmers' protest and later when it tagged political posts of several leaders of the ruling party BJP as "manipulated media", triggering a sharp rebuke from the Centre. The last flashpoint was the delay in complying with the IT rules that mandate large digital platforms to undertake greater due diligence as well as appoint a grievance officer, a nodal officer and a chief compliance officer. These personnel have to be residents in India.
Twitter has an estimated 1.75 crore users in India, as per data cited by the government recently. The micro-blogging platform has stated on its website that India is an important market for the company and is among the countries in which it is piloting a new approach of building an in-market team to locally tailor its global product to the needs of the region.