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Govt serves an ultimatum: Is time running out for Twitter in India?

Twitter logos
(Image credit: Twitter)

Is Twitter is pushing its luck too far in India? It is a question that is increasingly being asked as the Indian government served "one last notice" after the microblogging platform continued to stay non-compliant to the new IT rules that kicked into effect late last month.

The bone of contention is the appointment of grievance officer as mandated by the law of the land. 

Twitter seemed to have appointed a person last week, and we had reported it as much, but it turns out that the person appointed for that role is not a full-time employee.

And the Indian government seems to have run out of patience with Twitter, and it slapped “one last notice” on it to immediately comply with the new IT Rules, and warned that failure to do so will lead to the platform losing exemption from liability under the IT Act.

"Grievance officer appointed not an employee of Twitter"

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in that notice said that it has been more than a week since the new rules came into effect but Twitter has refused to comply with the provisions of these rules.

"It is clear from the responses till date that Twitter has not informed about the details of the Chief Compliance Officer as required under the rules," the ministry's notice said. Further, the Resident Grievance Officer and Nodal Contact Person nominated is not an employee of Twitter Inc. in India as prescribed in the rules, it added.

Twitter’s refusal to follow the rules demonstrates a “lack of commitment towards providing a safe experience to the people of India”, the government said in the notice addressed to Jim Baker, deputy general counsel.

India slaps notice on Twitter

Indian government's letter to Twitter  (Image credit: Indian government)

"Twitter doggedly refuses to create mechanism for complaint redressal"

Despite being in operation in India for over a decade, it is beyond belief that Twitter Inc. has doggedly refused to create mechanisms that will enable the people of India to resolve their issues on the platform in a timely and transparent manner and through fair processes,” the ministry said in the notice.

“Users who are abused on the platform or are harassed or are subject to defamation or specula abuse or become victims go a whole range of other abusive contacts must get a redressal mechanism that the same people of India have created through a due process of law.”

The government, as a “gesture of goodwill”, has given Twitter one last notice to immediately comply with the new rules or lose the exemption from criminal liability available to the social media intermediary under section 79 of the Information Technology Act. Section 79 provides Twitter safe harbour or protection against any kind of criminal action for third party content posted on the platform.

Koo wants to take advantage of Twitter's problems

As they say when things go wrong, they go wrong horribly. And in Twitter's case, it seems the case. Just as Twitter is involved in a pointless spat, it got involved in further turmoil when it removed the blue tick from the (Twitter) handle of India's vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, and top leaders of RSS, which is a part of the right wing ecosystem that is the bulwark of the India's ruling party, the BJP.

Twitter was, of course, playing it strictly by the book. Its rule for blue tick clearly says that twitter accounts inactive for long (6 months or more) stand to lose that verified sign. But to remove that from the handle of vice-president in power is stretching it a bit too much. Especially in contrast to its own reluctance to comply with the rules of the nation.

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Meanwhile, the right wing groups in India, which have no love lost for Twitter, and are trying to build up Koo as a desi alternative, sense an opportunity elsewhere, too.

The Indian social networking platform wants to take advantage of the ban in Nigeria on Twitter by expanding its service there. A global presence would perhaps bolster Koo’s valuation in a future fundraise.

"@kooindia is available in Nigeria. We're thinking of enabling the local languages there too. What say?" wrote the company's co-founder Aprameya Radhakrishna on Twitter.

Quite clearly, Twitter is buffeted on all sides. And the general belief in India is that time and options are running out for it.