Bad time to be Twitter in India: How 2021 has unfolded for the microblogging platform

Bad time to be Twitter in India: How 2021 has unfolded for the microblogging platform
Photo Credit: Reuters
8 Jul, 2021

Twitter in India has been on a firefighting mode since February. It has blocked and unblocked accounts on government orders, found policemen knocking on its office doors in Delhi and even seen #BlockTwitterinIndia trending on its social media platform.  

Cut to July, Twitter has lost its safe harbour immunity for social media intermediaries as it is yet to comply with the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.  

Safe harbour for social media intermediaries offers them protection from legal or regulatory liability for third party content as long as they have no knowledge of its illegality or exercised due diligence. 

With a change of guard at Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) due to the ongoing cabinet reshuffle, it remains to be seen how the new IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw handles social media companies’ IT rules compliance.  

Here is a timeline of Twitter’s nightmare year so far in India:  

July 28, 2021 

Delhi High Court gave Twitter an extension to file a “better affidavit” apart from an earful for failing to comply with the IT rules. Twitter in its affidavit to the court said that a contingent worker appointed through a third party contractor was serving as the resident Grievance Officer and Chief Compliance Officer. Twitter told the court that it was in the process of setting up a liaison office in India.  

July 11, 2021

Twitter appoints Vinay Prakash as resident grievance officer and publishes its first monthly action-taken report in line with the new IT Rules.

July 08, 2021 

In a written submission to Delhi High Court, Twitter India said it will release its first monthly compliance report in accordance with the new IT laws not later than July 11. The company also said that it will make offers for appointment of resident chief compliance officer, nodal officer and grievance officer for India within eight weeks.

July 05, 2021 

Government told Delhi High Court in a written reply that Twitter had failed to comply with the law of the land and had lost immunity granted to social media intermediaries under the law.

June 28, 2021 

Interim grievance officer for Twitter India quits within weeks of appointment. The company had appointed a partner at a legal firm for the role till it could find a permanent employee to take up the role mandated by the new IT rules.

June 18, 2021 

Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT upbraids Twitter India representatives for failing to comply with the IT rules which came into effect on May 26.

June 9, 2021 

On government orders, Twitter blocks four accounts in India including one belonging to Indo-Canadian singer Jazzy B

June 1, 2021

Twitter India appoints interim grievance officer for India from law firm, a partner at the Bengaluru based law firm Poovayya & Co. 

May 27, 2021 

MeitY, Delhi Police face-off with Twitter for stating that it was concerned by the “intimidation tactics” by the police for complying with its global terms of service. 

May 26, 2021 

  • Date for compliance with the new IT rules 2021 which mandates that significant social media intermediaries with over 50 lakh registered users will be required to appoint resident grievance officer, nodal officer and chief compliance officer for India. 
  • A petition is filed by a lawyer Amit Acharya with the Delhi high Court stating that he was unable to locate contact details of the Twitter India grievance officer to raise a complaint on “defamatory, false and untrue” tweets. 

May 24, 2021 

Two teams from the special cell of Delhi Police go to the Twitter India office to serve a notice to the company demanding an explanation for the tagging a May 21 tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as “manipulated media”. 

April 26, 2021 

On MeitY orders, Twitter restricts posts by 21 accounts that criticised government’s handling of the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic. 

February 25, 2021 

Government issues the new IT rules to regulate social media platforms, digital media and news outlets and OTT platforms. 

February 10, 2021 

Twitter says that it had taken action against nearly 500 accounts related to ongoing farmers protest based on orders from MeitY which said that the posts or accounts violated Section 69A of IT Act. 

February 8, 2021 

MeitY asks Twitter to block 1,117 accounts linked to farmers protesting against the farm law reforms passed by the government. 

Public policy director for Twitter India and Southeast Asia, Mahima Kaul decides to step down. 

February 3, 2021 

MietY issues notice to Twitter threatening penal action for failure to comply with orders on taking down the 250 accounts. 

February 2, 2021 

On government orders, Twitter temporarily blocks 250 accounts that supported the ongoing farmer protests or used a hashtag defaming the prime minister. The accounts included those belonging to the publication The Caravan.