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Twitter loses coveted safe harbour protection in India for ‘flaring communal sentiments’

After not being able to appoint statutory officers on time, Twitter has lost the coveted “safe harbour” immunity in India.

Twitter loses coveted safe harbour protection in India for flaring communal sentiments-dnm
New Delhi, First Published Jun 16, 2021, 10:04 AM IST
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Twitter has lost its intermediary status in India for not complying with the new Information Technology Rules which came into force from May 26, government sources said today as a case was filed in Uttar Pradesh against the social media giant over Tweets on an assault that the police say attempted to incite communal trouble.

This means that Twitter can now be charged for users’ posts. “Due to their non-compliance, their protection as an intermediary is gone. Twitter is liable for penal actions against any Indian law just as any publisher is,” the sources further said.

“It is evident that in spite of repeated indulgence granted, including a last notice on June 5 as a goodwill gesture, Twitter has not complied with the Intermediary Guideline Rules under the IT Act having statutory force as they have been framed in exercise of powers under Section 87 of the IT Act. Rule 7 of the Rules very clearly enjoin that where an intermediary fails to observe these rules the provisions of sub section (1) of section 79 of the IT Act shall not be applicable to such intermediary and the intermediary shall be liable for punishment under any law including the IT Act as also the penal laws of India with respect to unlawful content published on that platform,” government sources said, adding, “In view of the above, the Rule 7 and the course suggested therein appears to have come into effect”.

Section 79 says any intermediary shall not be held legally or otherwise liable for any third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted on its platform.

The first case holding Twitter responsible for third party content was filed last night in Uttar Pradesh's Ghaziabad, in connection with an alleged assault on an elderly Muslim man on June 5.  Twitter has been accused in a First Information Report (FIR) of not removing "misleading" content linked to the incident.

The man, Sufi Abdul Samad, had alleged that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant "Vande Matram" and "Jai Shri Ram" by a group that assaulted him. The UP police say he was lying, that it was not a communal incident as implied in tweets; the man was attacked by six men -- Hindus and Muslims - who were upset over amulets he had sold them, according to the police.

With this, Twitter becomes the only American platform to have lost the protective shield – granted under Section 79 of the IT Act, even though others such as YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp remain protected.

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