IT Rules: Legal Moves Against Twitter Begin

The Twitter Inc. logo is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone in this arranged photograph. (Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg)

IT Rules: Legal Moves Against Twitter Begin

Just days after the deadline for complying with new rules for social media intermediaries ended, legal action against Twitter Inc. has begun — a petition in the Delhi High Court and a complaint to the Delhi Police.

The petition before the high court seeks the direction that Twitter should be asked appoint a resident grievance officer and comply with the other requirements under the new IT Rules.

Further, the National Commission for Protection Of Child Rights has asked the Delhi Police to register a first information report against the company and has requested the central government to stop children from accessing the social media website.

Notified in February this year, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 added a number of new compliances for significant social media intermediaries whose user base exceeds 50 lakh. On May 26, the government wrote to several social media companies asking about the status of compliance with the IT rules.

The failure to comply with the rules, experts said, can put the companies at the risk of legal liabilities as they stand to lose the immunity granted to intermediaries under the Section 79 of the Information Technology Act.

Petition Seeks Appointment Of Grievance Officer

The petitioner, Amit Acharya, in the Delhi High Court said he came across certain false and defamatory tweets on the social media platform. Both the tweets which he found objectionable were posted by handles which had a blue tick and were verified by Twitter, he said. But he could not find details of the grievance officer to submit his complaint.

This, the petitioner said, is a clear violation of the rules which require all significant social media platforms to appoint an employee resident in India as Grievance Officer and publish contact details on its website.

The details of the grievance officer mentioned on the webpage are of a U.S. citizen which is not in tune with the requirements of the rules, said the petitioner. This is a violation of the statutory right granted to him by the IT Rules and requested the court to direct the appointment of the officer.

During the hearing on May 31, the court observed that Twitter has to comply if there is no stay on the implementation of IT Rules, 2021, Akash Vajpai, advocate for the petitioner, told BloombergQuint.

When counsel for Twitter made the submission that they have already appointed resident grievance officer, we made the submission that appointment of resident grievance officer by Twitter is not as per rules. RGO should be an employee of the company while present interim RGO is an independent lawyer.
Akash Vajpai, Advocate for the petitioner

Child Rights Commission Seeks FIR

The complaint by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights relates to safety of children on the platform. This is not in relation to the IT Rules but under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

The commission has written to the Delhi Police asking them to register an FIR against Twitter for violation of the POCSO Act and the Indian Penal Code, as per Prasar Bharti. It has also asked the central government to block children’s access to the platform until Twitter starts forwarding complaints of child sexual harassment.

It isn't yet known if the Delhi Police has registered an FIR against the company.

The Delhi High Court has issued notice on Acharya's petition and asked the company to file its response. The court will take up the case next on July 6.

Twitter has yet to respond to BloombergQuint’s request for a comment on these developments.

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