Twitter finally compiles with India’s new IT guidelines



After months of playing tug of war with the Indian government the American microblogging site, Twitter has finally complied with the India’s new IT guidelines. New Delhi told a court Tuesday, August 10.

India’s new IT rules, which were unveiled in February this year, mandates significant social media firms, among other things, to appoint officials to address on-ground concerns in the country.

Facebook and Google complied with this requirement in May, when the proposed rules went into effect in the South Asian market. Twitter was initially completely against it.

But now the company had “prima facie” complied with the new Information Technology Rules, 2021, by appointing permanently a Chief Compliance Officer (COO), a Resident Grievance Officer (RGO) and a Nodal Contact Person (NCP).

During the brief hearing, senior advocate Sajan Poovayya, representing Twitter, submitted that the microblogging site had in compliance with the new IT Rules made the appointments.

Twitter had come under fire from the court for delaying the appointment of officials in India on a permanent basis. The court had also expressed reservations over Twitter changing the status of the appointment of CCO from ‘interim’ to ‘contingent’ in its affidavit.

It had remarked that the rules mandated the appointment of a senior employee as CCO, but Twitter, according to its affidavit, had appointed a ‘contingent worker’ through a third-party contractor.

The court’s remarks came while hearing a plea by advocate Amit Acharya seeking a direction to Twitter to appoint a permanent official.

Acharya said in his plea that from February 25, 2021 the IT Rules 2021 have come into effect and the Centre had given three months’ time to every significant social media intermediary to comply with the Rules.

Twitter, which was facing heat from the Indian government for not blocking some tweets that the Indian government had deemed objectionable, had requested additional few months to comply with the new rules and in the meantime vacated the required roles with temporary staff.

Tension has been brewing between the two for several months. Twitter labeled a tweet from Sambit Patra, the spokesperson of India’s ruling party BJP, in May as “manipulated media.” Days later, a special squad of Delhi police that investigates terrorism and other crimes made a surprise visit to two of Twitter’s offices in the country to seek information about Twitter’s rationale to term Patra’s tweets as manipulated.

Twitter at the time said it was “concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve.”

The firm’s slow efforts to comply with the new IT rules had cost the firm liability protection in the country last month, the Indian government said earlier. Internet services enjoy what is broadly referred to as “safe harbor” protections that say that tech platforms won’t be held liable for the things their users post or share online.

The new rules also require significant social media firms operating encrypted messaging services to devise a way to trace the originator of messages for special cases.

Several firms including Facebook’s WhatsApp and Signal have not complied with this requirement. WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over this requirement.