This article is written by – Abhishree Paradkar, Symbiosis Law School, Pune
The central government has informed the Delhi High Court that Twitter, in compliance with the IT Rules of 2021, has appointed Permanent Officers which include, Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Content Person, and Resident Grievance Officer.
This development came to take place when Justice Rekha Palli had been hearing a plea that was filed against Twitter India and Twitter Inc for non-compliance of Information technology Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021.
The company also informed the High Court on Friday, that it had appointed its permanent posts of Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person, and the Resident Grievance Officer on 4th August.
Previously, the court had strongly objected to the affidavits that were filed on behalf of Twitter and stated that the Chief Compliance Officer and Grievance Officer that were appointed were appointed as contingent workers. The Court had granted Twitter the last opportunity to file a “better affidavit” within the time of a week and set out the details of the appointments and also provide reasons for not appointing a Nodal Contact Person as of yet.
These developments only occurred after the court had lashed out on Twitter earlier this month and said that it would not provide Twitter with any protection from the consequences that would occur due to the non-compliance of the rules and also granted Twitter this sought-after time to get back on this significant issue.
Twitter informed the court in May that they had already appointed a Grievance Redressal Officer on 28th May.
Au contraire, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, of the Government of India, submitted to the High Court that the “safe harbor immunity” that was provided to Twitter under the Information Technology Act, 2000, was no longer available, as they had not fully complied with the new IT rules.
They also added that despite 3months’ time being granted for companies to comply with the rules 2021, Twitter failed to do so and such non-compliance would lead to Twitter losing its immunity, which was conferred to it as per Section 79 (1) of the IT Act, 2000.
A plea had been filed by a practicing advocate of the Delhi High Court as well as the Supreme Court who is also the user of the Twitter platform, stating that Twitter falls under the category of Significant Social Media Intermediary as provided under the IT Rules, 2021 and therefore, they must comply with the statutory duties that are provided under these rules.
The petition also alleges that as per Rule 4(c) of the rules, each SSMI has to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer, who shall be responsible for the disposal and redressal of all the complaints that are made by the users and victims of the platform.
The petitioner also contended that with the non-compliance of the said rules, Twitter India as well as Twitter Inc had failed to appoint a Nodal Officer, Resident Grievance Officer, as well as a Chief Compliance Officer.
It further contended that as the petitioner was a subscriber and user of Twitter, while he was scrolling through his Twitter account on 26th May 2021, he found certain alleged defamatory, untrue, and false tweets made by two individuals.
According to the rules, he tried to search for a Resident Grievance Officer to complain. However, he found that no such details of a Resident Grievance Officer were available on the webpage of Twitter which is a clear violation of Rule 3 sub-rule 2(a) which provides that the intermediary should publish prominently, on his website or mobile-based app or both, the name of the Grievance Officer as well as his contact details.
He, therefore, stated that Twitter Inc and Twitter India had kept him from exercising his right to complain to the Resident Grievance Officer.
During the present hearing, Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya, who appeared on behalf of Twitter, provided fresh affidavits that have been placed on record and he also clarified that the earlier contingent officers were appointed as Twitter Inc does not have any corporate presence in India. They, however, planned to make those officers work full-time. He also submitted that the permanent officers who were appointed will be reporting directly to the US office of Twitter.
Responding to the same, ASG Sharma provided that the company looks to comply with the rules and he also filed a short adjournment for filing an affidavit in the said matter. The center was granted a time of two weeks to file its reply.
The matter is set to be heard next on 5th October.
Amit Acharya v. UOI and Ors, 2021
Live Law News Network. (2021, August 10). Twitter Seems To Have Complied With IT Tules 2021: Centre Informs Delhi High Court.