The heat is certainly on the global social media giant platform, Twitter, which after showing initial defiance to comply with the new IT norms in India has finally lost its intermediary status. The platform now also stares at legal proceedings after the Uttar Pradesh police slapped an FIR in non-bailable sections for ‘intending to outrage religious feelings.
The UP police have slapped an FIR against Twitter under sections including IPC sections 153 (provocation for rioting), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 505 (mischief), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention).
Under sections 295A invoked by the UP police Twitter officials may face a maximum jail term of 3 years. “The maximum punishment under section 295A is around 3 years with fine and it is a non-bailable offense,” senior High Court lawyer Pratichi told TechObserver.
According to Pratichi, with the FIR already being registered against the social media platform, the Twitter officials will have to comply with the police summons and actively participate in the investigation. In case of any non-compliance of police summons, the legal system gives police rights to issue warrants and arrest twitter officials. “Twitter officials will have to adhere to the police summons and cooperate in the investigation or else police can take legal recourse against such officials,” Pratichi added.
The Uttar Pradesh police have slapped an FIR against Twitter Inc and its India unit accusing them of promoting hate to disturb law and order in the state.
Earlier while validating the UP police action against Twitter, Union minister for electronics and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Twitter has chosen the path of ‘non-compliance with regard to India's Intermediary guidelines that came into effect from May 26 and has shown “deliberate defiance” towards the new law.
“What happened in UP was illustrative of Twitter's arbitrariness in fighting fake news. While Twitter has been over-enthusiastic about its fact-checking mechanism, its failure to act in multiple cases like UP is perplexing & indicates its inconsistency in fighting misinformation,” Prasad wrote on the microblogging platform.
After UP's police action on Twitter, late Tuesday night announced that it has appointed an interim chief compliance officer and the details of the office will be shared with the IT Ministry directly soon. Twitter is yet to appoint three key executives – required by India's new IT rules to be permanent employees – despite several nudges from the government including a “last notice” sent on June 5. The company has appointed a lawyer as its grievance and nodal officer on a contractual basis.
“Twitter was given multiple opportunities to comply with the same, however, it has deliberately chosen the path of non-compliance. In certain scenarios, with the amplification of social media, even a small spark can cause a fire, especially with the menace of fake news. This was one of the objectives of bringing the Intermediary Guidelines,' he wrote. “It is astounding that Twitter, which portrays itself as the flag bearer of free speech, chooses the path of deliberate defiance when it comes to the Intermediary Guidelines,” Prasad said in a series of tweets on Wednesday.
Prasad also claimed that Twitter has failed to address the grievances of users by refusing to set up a process as mandated by the law of the land. Additionally, it chooses a policy of flagging manipulated media, only when it suits its likes and dislikes.
The Union minister said that Indian companies that do business in the US follow local laws. “Then why are platforms like Twitter showing reluctance in following Indian laws designed to give voice to the victims of abuse and misuse?,” he wrote in a series of tweets on Wednesday.
The rule of law is the bedrock of Indian society. India's commitment to the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech was yet again reaffirmed at the G7 summit, he said. “However, if any foreign entity believes that they can portray itself as the flag bearer of free speech in India to excuse itself from complying with the law of the land, such attempts are misplaced,” Prasad tweeted.