Social media company Twitter has told the ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) that it is “committed to complying” with all clauses of the intermediary guidelines and asked for a week’s time, officials familiar with the matter said on Monday, days after the government issued an ultimatum to the company.
The government on Saturday said Twitter would have to face “unintended consequences” that can involve it losing its legal protection from criminal liability for user content if it does not comply with the new rules for digital content.
“The company has highlighted that there have been some difficulties in making appointments for some key personnel and sought a week’s time to comply with most of the provisions, while saying that it will implement all provisions as soon as possible,” said a ministry official, who asked not to be named.
The official added that the platform has also informed the ministry that it is looking to set up an office in the country, as required under the new rules that seek a physical address for significant social media intermediaries, or companies running networks with more than 5 million registered users from India.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, was notified in February, with all clauses of it coming into force on May 25. These guidelines require digital companies such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook to change how they regulate content, appoint nodal officers for compliance and grievance redressal, and adopt features such as traceability of messages and voluntary user verification.
Twitter said in a statement on Monday that the company is making every effort to comply with the new guidelines while continuing a constructive dialogue with the government. “Twitter has been and remains deeply committed to India, and serving the vital public conversation taking place on the service,” a Twitter spokesperson said, adding, “We have assured the government of India that Twitter is making every effort to comply with the new guidelines, and an overview on our progress has been duly shared.”
Against this backdrop, the new IT rules hardened the stand-off last month, with the microblogging website earlier asking for more time to comply, raising concerns over the “core elements” of the norms, and flagging potential threats to the safety of its employees after a visit by the Delhi Police the same month.
“Our intent was always clear: the company is free to do business in India, but it has to comply with the law of the land,” the official mentioned above said. The ministry earlier echoed this sentiment when it had said, “Leave alone proactively creating such a mechanism, Twitter Inc is in the inglorious bracket of refusing to do so even when mandated by law.”
Hindustan Times reported on May 29 that other significant social media intermediaries that have 5 million users or more, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Google, have shared the details with the ministry.
Under criticism over the past few months, the government has maintained that the new IT rules make companies more accountable for the online content posted on their websites and protects users from abuse. But the companies, several experts and Opposition parties believe that the norms may have a bearing on the right to free speech and privacy.
WhatsApp has challenged the rules in the Delhi high court, calling it unconstitutional and a threat to Indians’ fundamental rights.