Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday, 17 June, said that Twitter lost its intermediary status and has become liable under Indian laws, including the Indian Penal Code.
“We gave them (Twitter) three months. Others have followed, they haven't. Rule 7 of the (IT) guidelines says that if you don't comply then under Section 79, then you may lose intermediary status and may become liable to other laws, including penal laws of the country,” Prasad told news agency ANI.
He asserted that he did not declare the removal of Twitter’s intermediary status, the law did.
“If others followed, why couldn't they? We asked for three officers to be appointed in three months. The term exhausted on 26 May. We gave them the last opportunity as a goodwill gesture,” he added.
'Twitter Will Have to Obey India's Constitution': RS Prasad
Questioning Twitter's non-compliance with IT rules, Prasad said, "When Indian companies do business or pharma companies go to manufacture in US, do they follow American laws or not? If you have to do business here, you're welcome to criticise the PM, all of us...but you've to obey India's Constitution and rules."
Prasad declared that he does not have any problem with people doing politics on Twitter. "It isn't an issue between Twitter and GOI or BJP. It is an issue between Twitter and its users who must be given forum in case of misuse or abuse."
He stated that when "these profit companies start lecturing us on democracy, then I would like to ask a question. Media questions senior ministers. That's freedom of speech and democracy. Under the garb of these, if you won't comply with rules, it's misplaced argument."
Prasad alleged that Twitter treats the US and India differently. Citing the incident at the Capitol, Prasad told ANI, "When Capitol Hill in Washington was raided, you block Twitter account of all including then President Donald Trump. During farmers strike, Red Fort is raided by terrorist supporters showing naked swords, injuring policemen and pushing them in ditch, then it's freedom of expression."
"If Capitol Hill is US' pride, Red Fort is India's where PM hoists Tricolour. You show parts of Ladakh as China's part. It takes a fortnight for us to pursue you to remove it. This isn't fair. As democracy, India is equally entitled to safeguard its digital sovereignty," he added.
When ANI asked if Twitter could be banned, the minister responded that the government is not in favour of banning any platform.
Prasad’s statement came hours after Twitter, in a first such case against it, was named in an FIR by the Ghaziabad Police accusing the social media platform of not deleting tweets with regard to an incident involving a 72-year-old Muslim man, Abdul Samad Saifi, being brutally thrashed in Ghaziabad’s Loni.
This gave rise to questions about the legal protection accorded to Twitter under Section 79 of the IT Act.
“There are numerous queries arising as to whether Twitter is entitled to safe harbour provision. However, the simple fact of the matter is that Twitter has failed to comply with the intermediary guidelines that came into effect from the 26th of May[sic],” RS Prasad wrote on Twitter.
A Twitter spokesperson on Wednesday said, "We are keeping the MeitY apprised of the progress at every step of the process. An interim Chief Compliance Officer has been retained and details will be shared with the Ministry soon. Twitter continues to make every effort to comply with the new guidelines."