Twitter has flagged the risks posed by India’s proposed legislation for social media intermediaries as something which may impact its operations, in a regulatory filing with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) last week. The filing is a snapshot of Twitter’s financial performance which it is required to file with the SEC annually.
The microblogging platform said that its risk is enhanced in jurisdictions outside the US. It elaborated that compliance with foreign laws including regulations with respect to privacy, data protection, data localization, cybersecurity, taxation, consumer protection, copyright, fake news, hate speech, spam, and content, may affect its business.
“…we are subject to legislation in Germany that may impose significant fines for failure to comply with certain content removal and disclosure obligations. Other countries, including Brazil, Turkey, Singapore, India, Australia, and the United Kingdom, have implemented or are considering similar legislation imposing penalties for failure to remove certain types of content.” — Twitter
In its report on the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, the Joint Parliamentary Committee recommended that all social media platforms, which do not act as intermediaries, should be treated as publishers and be held accountable for the content they host, as per a press release. The JPC’s draft Bill also contains penalties for social media intermediaries in case they fail to comply with the provisions of the law.
Twitter is the second company after Meta to flag India’s proposed laws as a cause for concern. It remains to be seen what impact the bill has on major social media platforms after its promulgation.
What were the other risks flagged by Twitter?
The company said that it experienced uncertainty with regards to laws relating to the liability of providers of online products or services for activities of the people who use them.
“In particular, the nature of our business exposes us to claims related to defamation, intellectual property rights, rights of publicity and privacy, illegal content, misinformation, content regulation and personal injury torts,” the company wrote in its annual report.
“We could incur significant costs investigating and defending these claims. If we incur material costs or liability as a result of these occurrences, our business, financial condition and operating results would be adversely impacted,” the company explained.
Usage of feature phones: The company said that it was experiencing difficulties in augmenting its monetisation prospects as there is a high prevalence of people using feature phones in India and Pakistan. Twitter also said that “different levels of internet access” or mobile device adoption puts the company at a risk.
Meta’s own concerns with the bill
The JPC report also has provisions for data localisation which likely imposes a compliance burden on social media companies including Meta and Twitter.
Meta, in its SEC filing, underscores the problems India’s Data Protection Bill can pose:
“Some countries, such as India, are considering or have passed legislation implementing data protection requirements or requiring local storage and processing of data or similar requirements that could increase the cost and complexity of delivering our services. New legislation or regulatory decisions that restrict our ability to collect and use information about minors may also result in limitations on our advertising services or our ability to offer products and services to minors in certain jurisdictions.”
Alphabet Inc also spoke about the risks associated with privacy legislation that were plaguing its operations in its regulatory filing earlier this month, but stopped short of naming countries, according to a report in Economic Times.
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