India Issues Final Warning to Twitter to Comply With New Rules
The Twitter Inc. logo is displayed on a mobile phone. (Photographer: Alex Flynn/Bloomberg)

India Issues Final Warning to Twitter to Comply With New Rules

The Indian government issued a final warning to Twitter Inc. to immediately comply with new rules for social media companies or face “consequences” under local laws, in an escalating dispute with the micro-blogging site.

The new rules, which took effect in February, require intermediaries such as Twitter, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and YouTube, Facebook Inc. and its WhatsApp messaging platform to assign and appoint representatives to redress grievances. Penalties, including jail terms, can be imposed if a company violates them.

“The refusal to comply demonstrates Twitter’s lack of commitment and efforts towards providing a safe experience for the people of India on its platform,” the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in notice on Saturday, adding it is giving “one last notice” to the site to comply as a “gesture of goodwill.”

A Twitter spokesperson in New Delhi declined to comment.

Last month, police officers visited Twitter’s New Delhi premises -- vacated since March 2020 due to the pandemic -- to deliver a notice in an inquiry over posts by senior members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. They had tweeted out documents purporting to show opponents strategizing to exploit the coronavirus for political gain.

San Francisco-based Twitter labeled the posts as “synthetic and manipulated media” amid rival Congress Party allegations of them being forged.

For more on Twitter:
Nigeria Suspends Twitter After President’s Tweet Is Deleted
India Says Twitter Tries to ‘Dictate Terms’ in Largest Democracy
Twitter’s Reveal of Settlement Talks Didn’t Overstep, Judge Says

The company issued a statement on May 27 describing the police visit as “intimidation tactics” and expressing concern about the government’s actions and IT rules that threaten to curb free speech.

“Protecting free speech in India is not the prerogative of only a private, for-profit foreign entity like Twitter,” the ministry said in response. The company’s actions are undermining India’s legal system, the government said. “Twitter refuses to comply with those very regulations in the intermediary guidelines on the basis of which it is claiming a safe harbor protection from criminal liability in India.”

Other social media companies have argued against the measures, alleging they would infringe user privacy. WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the government challenging the validity of the rules.

India’s warning follows an indefinite suspension of the micro-blogging site’s operations in Nigeria after it deleted a post by the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari.

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