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Indian government to Twitter: Stop offshoring and outsourcing – or risk losing legal protections

Social network lashed for ‘inglorious’, ‘dogged refusal’ to comply

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has written to Twitter with a final warning after the micro-blogging service offshored and outsourced some of its obligations under the nation’s content takedown laws.

The world’s second-most-populous nation and the micro-blogging service have been beefing over India’s Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, a law that requires social networks to take down child exploitation material and other internet nasties, and to appoint a chief compliance officer, a “nodal contact person,” and a “resident grievance officer” to liaise with local authorities and handle takedown requests.

Twitter last week revealed it has appointed a grievance officer and provided a contact in the USA and another at an Indian law firm.

MEITY took a dim view of those appointments, wrote to Twitter to say so and received a reply that, the Ministry says, “neither addresses the clarifications sought by this Ministry nor indicates full compliance with the Rules.”

“Twitter has not informed about the details of the Chief Compliance Officer as required under the Rules,” states the Ministry’s letter. “Further, Resident Grievance Officer and Nodal Contact Person nominated by you is not an employee of Twitter Inc. in India as prescribed in the Rules. The office address of Twitter Inc. as mentioned by you is that of a law firm in India, which is also not as per the Rules.”

Yes, dear reader, that’s an Indian ministry saying offshoring and outsourcing just aren’t good enough.

The letter, signed by MEITY cyber-law group coordinator Rakesh Maheshwan, occasionally gets rather heated.

“Despite being operational in India for more than a decade, it is beyond belief that Twitter Inc. has doggedly refused to create mechanisms that will enable the people of India to resolve their issues on the platform in a timely and transparent manner and through fair processes,” Maheshwan thundered.

“Leave alone proactively creating such a mechanism, Twitter Inc. is in the inglorious bracket of refusing to do so even when mandated by law.”

The letter points out that Twitter has not responded to a letter sent a week earlier, and warns that non-compliance will “lead to unintended consequences including Twitter losing exemption from liability as available under section 79 of the IT Act, 2000.”

That section says that social media companies lose exemption to liability for “any third-party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by him” if they don’t comply with local laws.

As Twitter carries quite a bit of, shall we say, intemperate content, non-compliance with the new Code could prove very challenging indeed.

Twitter’s blog and Social Policy account are silent on the matter, but the latter did find time to protest the service being banned in Nigeria on the same day that MEITY’s letter was dated and made public.

Twitter has until June 16th to prove compliance with the Code.

One entity watching on with interest will be Indian Twitter clone “Koo”, which has positioned itself as the patriotic micro-blogging alternative.

Koo has gathered around six million users since launching in March 2020. ®

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