New intermediary rules: Govt upbraids Twitter, responds to UN letter

New intermediary rules: Govt upbraids Twitter, responds to UN letter
Photo Credit: Pixabay
21 Jun, 2021

In the latest development on the government’s face-off with Twitter, the parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology (IT) on Friday upbraided the microblogging platform for failing to comply with the Information Technology (intermediary guidelines and digital ethics code) Rules 2021, which came into effect in May. 

Media reports said that the committee told representatives for Twitter in India, Shagufta Kamran from the public policy team and legal counsel Ayushi Kapoor, that the law of the land was supreme and asked why Twitter should not be fined for failing to comply with the same. 

Twitter had earlier written to MeitY for an extension of the deadline for compliance by three months and has appointed interim grievance officer and interim chief compliance officer for its India operations. 

In a separate development, the Indian government also responded to a letter from the United Nations Special Rapporteurs, dated June 11, which said that the new intermediary guidelines do not appear to meet the requirements of international law.  

In its response on Saturday, the government said that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) had finalised the rules after detailed discussions with various stakeholders including individuals, civil society, industry association and organisations apart from inviting public comments to the draft Rules. 

  “The Permanent Mission of India would also like to highlight that India's democratic credentials are well recognized. The right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. The independent judiciary and a robust media are part of India's democratic structure,” said the statement issued by the government. 

The statement also appended an information note and salient features of the Rules 2021.  

With regard to compliance with the intermediary rules, WhatsApp filed a petition in the Delhi High Court saying that the rules required the platform to provide traceability for messages. This, WhatsApp has argued, goes against the fundamental right to privacy for Indian users. Meanwhile Google told Delhi High Court that it was not a significant social media intermediary as per the definition and hence should be exempted from complying with the rules.