Twitter has lost liability protection in India, government says

Twitter no longer enjoys the liability protection against user-generated content in India, the Indian government said in a court filing this week as tension escalates between the two over the South Asian nation’s new IT rules.

In a court filing on Monday, New Delhi said Twitter has lost its immunity in India after the American social network failed to comply with the new local IT rules, which was unveiled in February and went into effect last May.

Experts have said in recent weeks that the Indian court — and not the Indian government — holds the power to determine whether Twitter gets to keep its safe harbor protections.

“I state the immunity conferred on intermediaries under section 79(1) is a conditional immunity subject to the intermediary satisfying the conditions under sections 79(2) and 79(3). As provided in Rule 7, failure to observe the IT Rules 2021 results in provisions of Section 79(1) of the IT Act, 2000 not being applicable to such an intermediary,” N Samaya Balan of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology wrote in the filing.

The move follows as tension escalates between the Indian government and Twitter. Google, Facebook, and several other firms have partially or fully complied with the IT rules, which among other things, requires any significant social media firm (any firm with over 5 million users in India) to appoint a chief compliant officer, a resident grievance officer, and a so-called nodal contact person to address on-ground concerns.

Twitter has not complied with any of these requirements, the court filing said. Twitter had no comment.

“All social media platforms are welcome to do business in India. They can criticize Ravi Shankar Prasad, my Prime Minister or anyone. The issue is of misuse of social media. Some of them say we are bound by American laws. You operate in India, make good money, but you will take the position that you’ll be governed by American laws. This is plainly not acceptable,” India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a conference last week.

Now with the liability protection gone, Twitter executives in India face several criminal charges over objectionable content on the platform. Indian police have already filed at least five cases against the company or its officials in the country.

This is a developing story. More to follow…