India hits social media firms with compliance orders for new IT rules

India hits social media firms with compliance orders for new IT rules

The Delhi High Court has given Twitter three weeks to demonstrate that its operations comply with intermediary guidelines implemented by India on the 25th May.

While India’s government ordered companies to comply with the revised rules immediately, Twitter has requested a three-month grace period. The new regulations stipulate that tech firms must appoint employees resident in India to the roles of Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person and Grievance Officer.

Major international groups such as Google and Facebook as well as local platforms like Koo and ShareChat have complied with this directive, but Twitter had listed a lawyer employed by an Indian firm as its Nodal Contact Person and Grievance Officer, and provided no details for the Chief Compliance Officer role.

India’s Economic Times reported that the ruling was made in response to a petition filed on Friday 28th May by Amit Acharya, which stated that Twitter had failed to appoint a Grievance Officer despite being given three months to prepare before the law came into effect. Acharya also sought to “register his complaint against some defamatory and untrue tweets but could not find the redressal mechanism on its site.”

In a statement, Twitter said that it “strives to comply with applicable law in India. We continue to be strictly guided by principles of transparency, a commitment to empowering every voice on the service, and protecting freedom of expression and privacy under the Indian law.”

Failing to comply with the revised regulations could result in Twitter losing its intermediary immunity, meaning that in the event that a user committed a crime, the firm’s executives could be prosecuted as abettors.

Vivek Sood, Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court, told the ET that Twitter must now “either…move to the Supreme Court or…comply with the High Court’s order. And, if Twitter decides to leave India, then it would be a big blow to free speech of people who express themselves on this democratic social media platform. The Government must engage with Twitter to address its concerns over the Intermediary Rules.”

Twitter is not the only tech firm raising issues with the revised regulations; Google has told the Delhi High Court that India’s new IT rules are not applicable to its search engine after a judge ruled that it must abide by them.

In a statement, Google claimed that the judge had "mischaracterised" Google Search as a ‘'significant social media intermediary’ to which the law should apply, and had thereby “misinterpreted and misapplied” the new rules.