By Vaidehi Gautam
The IT Ministry of Indian Government stated in a court filing dated 5th July 2021, for the first time that Twitter no longer has immunity over user-generated content in India. The statement came in light citing the micro-blogging corporation’s lack of compliance with the new IT rules laid down by the Indian government. This lack of compliance was a subject for criticism for the Narendra Modi Administration. This dispute had raised concerns that U.S. firms will avoid doing business with India due to the increased stringency in the regulatory environment.
The court filing stated that Twitter’s non-compliance resulted in a breach of the regulations of the IT Act, which led Twitter to lose its immunity. Twitter, however, has refused to comment on the issue though earlier it was reported that the company is trying its best to accommodate the provisions of the IT rules. The rules in question became effective in May 2021.
The objective of these rules is to regulate content on social media platforms in order to make them more accountable to legal requests for deletion of posts and to facilitate sharing of identities of the originators of questionable content. Twitter’s lack of compliance was repeatedly slammed by the Indian government, leading to at least five cases being filed against the company and its officials by the Delhi Police.
This loss of immunity poses significant threat to dissenters and political activists who actively criticise the government on Twitter. It does require rocket science to expect the consequences of the new IT Rules which would result in a threat to the Right to Privacy of the Indian users on Twitter. Use of the draconian UAPA law would increase leading to a high number of unwarranted arrests by the state for criticising the government’s functioning in the garb of sedition charges. Such arrests are not new to India. Activists like Prof Hany Babu and Sudha Bhardwaj are imprisoned due to these charges, and the recent death of Father Stan Swamy was enabled by the state’s neglect of his health conditions while he was imprisoned due to the same law.
Twitter’s loss of immunity indicates a threat to the new generation of activism of which Twitter is a big part and platform of facilitating debates, dissents and resources. It is yet to be observed how this news would play out in the domain of political debates.
Vaidehi Gautam is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University Delhi. She is interested in politics, public policy, gender, pop culture, and loves to stay caffeinated and revisit basic mathematics from her school days. Presently she is interning with kractivist.org