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Twitter is now in compliance with the IT Rules 2021: Indian government in Delhi High Court

Although the government appears satisfied with Twitter’s appointments to key roles as mandated by the IT Rules, the original petitioner in the case intends to file his objections at the next hearing. 

Twitter is now prima facie in compliance with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, the Indian government told the High Court, days after the social media company announced that it had made the necessary appointments under the rules.

Why it matters? Twitter’s compliance marks the end of a three-month court battle and a longer tussle with the Indian government over its compliance with the IT Rules 2021. The company was taken to court by advocate Amit Acharya, a day after May 26, the last date set by the Indian government to comply with the rules.

Last week, Twitter informed the Delhi High Court that it has appointed a permanent resident grievance-cum-chief compliance officer and a permanent nodal contact person for India. While Vinay Prakash will be responsible for handling grievances and ensuring compliance, former ByteDance executive Shahin Komath will be the permanent nodal contact person in India.

Chetan Sharma, representing the Indian government said, “Twitter has appointed resident grievance officer, nodal contact person. They are today in compliance with the IT Rules 2021.” Sharma added that the government will file an affidavit in this regard. The matter has now been listed for October.

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Hired interim officers as didn’t have corporate presence in India: Twitter counsel

Addressing the bench of Justice Rekha Palli, Twitter’s counsel Sajan Poovayya on Tuesday, while quoting an affidavit filed by the social media company said, “Twitter has appointed Vinay Prakash a resident of India, as chief compliance officer, effective since July 2021, and as a resident grievance officer effective July 7, 2021…”

Twitter Inc initially hired Mr Prakash through a third party contractor namely, PRO Unlimited India Pvt Ltd. The appointment was done this way because Twitter Inc did not have a corporate presence in India. The appointment was considered contingent because Twitter Inc expected to convert the position to a full time employee as soon as practicable — Sajan Poovayya, Twitter Inc counsel

Poovayya further said that Twitter has since then “converted Prakash to a full-time employee effective August 4, 2021. I therefore, respectively submit, that Vinay Prakash is and has been since his appointment fully capable of performing the functions of a resident grievance officer under Section 4(1)(a) and Section 4 (1)(c) of the Rules.” He added that Prakash will be reporting to Jim Baker, the deputy general counsel of Twitter Inc.

Acharya’s counsel to register his grievance

Although the Indian government seemed satisfied with the appointments made by Twitter, Acharya’s counsel G Tushar Rao had objected to it earlier asking how one person can have two roles — chief compliance officer and resident grievance officer. He also pointed out that the major reason behind filing the petition — tweets that were flagged for defamation by Acharya — had not been addressed during the hearings. He is also expected to file his objections regarding the matter in an affidavit.

In the PIL, Acharya alleged that tweets from Lk Sabha MP Mahua Moitra about Delhi Police’s notice to Twitter, and tweets from journalist Swati Chaturvedi about former Chief Justice of India Sharav Arvind Bode were “offensive and objectionable” in nature.

“It is submitted that the Petitioner wanted to raise grievance against these offensive and objectionable tweet at the Appropriate Forum i.e. Resident Grievance Officer under Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021. However the Petitioner was unable to find the contact details of the Resident Grievance Officer on the website of Respondent No. 3 under Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) Rules 2021 for raising his grievance.” — the petition read

What do the IT Rules require?

The IT rules require social media intermediaries to:

  • Appoint key managerial roles: Significant social media intermediaries (with more than 50 lakh registered users) must appoint a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and resident grievance officer, all of whom must be Indian residents and employees of the platform.
  • Disable content within 36 hours of government order: The rules also ask intermediaries to provide information for verification of identity or assist any government agency for crime prevention and investigations no later than 72 hours of receiving a lawful order. They also have to preserve records of disabled content for 180 days.
  • Proactively identify and take down content using automated tools
  • Publish periodic compliance reports

A brief timeline of the case:

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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