Twitter Files A Writ Petition Against The Indian Government

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On the 5th of July, Twitter filed a writ petition against the government of India. This was indeed a shocking act by the social media giant Twitter against the Indian government in the Karnataka high court. Let’s find out more about this incident in detail without any assumptions.

Twitter Vs. Indian Government

Twitter filed a writ case in the Karnataka High Court on Tuesday disputing specific letters & content takedown orders issued by the Union govt., according to persons with firsthand knowledge of the event.

The legal action was taken after the deadline of the 4th of July to comply with the ministry of electronics & information technology’s instructions for the American microblogging site.

The social intermediary approached the courts because it believed that several of the blocking orders issued by the information technology ministry were “overboard & arbitrary, failed to provide notice to originators of the content,” & was “disproportionate in several cases,” according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Twitter Files a Writ Petition Against the Government of India | Live Law

What Is Section 69 A Information Technology Act 2000 Of The Indian Constitution? 

The Information Technology Act of 2000’s Section 69A gives the federal government the authority to prohibit the offending internet information and detain its author. The principal law in India that addresses cybercrime and electronic trade is this one. The Indian government has recently prohibited many Chinese apps from using this provision of IT legislation.

On the 9th of June 2000, the Indian Parliament passed the Information Technology Act, 2000, and it has been in effect since the 17th of October 2000. Pramod Mahajan introduced this legislation, which was changed in 2008.

The central government has the authority to prohibit internet content and apprehend the offender under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The principal law in India that addresses cybercrime and electronic trade is this one.

The Information Technology Act’s Section 69A has granted the federal government a lot of authority.

1. Give instructions to remove offensive content from websites and social media. On the 20th of December, 2018, the Home Ministry issued an order giving 10 central agencies the authority to monitor, intercept, and decrypt any information created, received, transmitted, or stored in any computer.

In light of India’s sovereignty and integrity, the security of the nation, its defense, and its good relations with other countries, it is necessary to prohibit internet content.

2. The steps and safety precautions that must be followed in order to carry out such limiting of access by the general public must follow any guidelines that may be required.

3. The responsible authorities may be subject to a fine and a term of imprisonment of up to seven years if they fail to follow the instruction (subsection 1) given.

Some political parties had argued that this law violated their fundamental right to privacy, but the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling dismissed that argument.

The Supreme Court ruled that there are sufficient procedural protections and that the Center may use its authority to order the blocking of a website. The court further ruled that national security takes precedence over personal privacy.

What Is Section 79(1) IT Act 2000 Of The Indian Constitution?

Every social media middleman is exempt from legal action for any third-party information, data, or communication link he makes available or hosts, according to Section 79 of The IT Act of 2000. It also states that the protection is only valid if the intermediary in question does not begin the transmission of the relevant message, chooses the recipient of the transmission, or modifies any of the communication’s contents in any manner.

This can be translated to suggest that a social media platform won’t be held accountable for any legal actions if it merely acts as a bridge to transmit messages from one person to another without interfering in any way.

However, if the intermediary fails to promptly remove or disable access to that material on that resource without tainting the evidence in any way after receiving actual knowledge of or being notified by the appropriate Govt. or its agency that any data, information, or link of communication residing in or connected to a resource of a computer, controlled by it, is being used to commit the illegal act. In that case, that can lead to problems.

The government, which cites instances of rioting and false information on social media sites, has requested WhatsApp to investigate ways to identify the first creator of a specific device.

The 1996 Communications Decency Act’s Section 230 stipulates that “no user or supplier of a computer service which is interactive shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information which another information content provider gives.” This is in accordance with international norms.

Twitter Vs. Indian Government–Details About The Petition

One of the individuals listed above stated, “Several blocking orders that were issued just ‘cite’ the reasons of Section 69A (of the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000), but fail to establish how the content comes under those grounds, or how the said content is in violation of Section 69A.

In an exclusive report on the 29th of June, ET stated that the IT ministry had given Twitter a “last chance” to abide by all notices and takedown orders issued in accordance with the IT Act, failing which would result in the loss of the protection provided under Section 79 of the IT Act and its intermediary status.

Following inquiries for confirmation on the most recent developments, MeitY and Twitter did not react.

People in the know claim that Twitter’s position is that content identified for removal by MeitY is frequently shared by official handles of political parties. According to a source, “blocking such content would violate the freedom of speech provided to users of the network.”

Furthermore, according to the microblogging platform, the IT ministry has used its authority “disproportionately” in some of the blocking orders and “has not specified the exact reasons as to why it believed the content to be in violation of Section 69 of the IT Act,” according to one person who wished to remain anonymous.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, IT & the minister of state for electronics, posted on the microblogging site on Tuesday night: “In India, all international Internet intermediaries/platforms have the right to court and judicial review. However, it goes without saying that ALL intermediaries and platforms operating here are required to abide by our laws and regulations.

The IT ministry informed Twitter in a notice dated the 27th of June that despite receiving non-compliance notices on June 6 and 9, the social media intermediary had not responded. As a result, the ministry was proceeding as required under the applicable provision of the IT Act of 2000.

After the intermediary’s “repeated failures to respond on the content takedown letters sent under Section 69A of the IT Act” and on “non-compliance notices issued for not taking the content down,” officials in the know had then alerted ET that the notices were being sent to Twitter.

According to legal professionals, the government has frequently utilized Section 69 of the IT Act “in provisions violation of the section, which provides restricted grounds for barring access to any material.”

According to Prasanth Sugathan, legal director of the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC.in), “often, users whose content is taken down, are not informed & this basically goes against the rationale of the apex court in upholding the section & the rules in Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India.” Sugathan was referring to a ruling by a two-judge bench in 2015 on the topic of online speech and intermediary liability in India.

Following several run-ins between the US microblogging platform and Indian regulators in recent years, the IT ministry issued a warning on the 27th of June.

MeitY issued a similar caution about the prospect of Twitter losing its intermediary status due to non-compliance with rules under the IT Act in May 2021, when the IT Rules 2021 went into force. Additionally, it instructed the business to name a nodal contact person, a resident chief compliance officer, and a resident grievance officer in order to retain the protection provided by Section 79 of the IT Act.

People familiar with the company’s internal thinking noted that the IT ministry has stated that “platforms should take proportionate action by just removing the content or information alone only if the said content is illegal or unlawful” and that “taking down users’ accounts should be the last resort.”

One of the sources cited above remarked, “Any account level banning is a really disproportionate step.

Twitter’s legal action on Tuesday will increase the number of petitions submitted by social media intermediaries challenging one or more provisions of the Information Technology Act of 2000 or the Information Technology Rules of 2021.

WhatsApp filed a lawsuit with the Delhi High Court on the 25th of May of last year to challenge the IT rules’ requirement to identify the sender of messages. WhatsApp argued that since doing so would require it to compromise its platform’s “end-to-end” encryption, it would ultimately violate users’ basic right to privacy.

In a different instance, Manish Maheshwari, then-head of Twitter India, asked the Karnataka High Court last year to overturn a summons that the Uttar Pradesh police had issued to him. The court subsequently issued a decision in Maheshwari’s favor and instructed the police to question him virtually if necessary.

IT Intermediary Guidelines & Digital Media Ethics Code Rule 2021

The Ministry of IT & Electronics announced the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 in February of that year. All social media platforms must comply with the new IT rules by the 26th of May, 2021, thanks to the rules’ three-month grace period for social media intermediaries.

The Rules include a Grievance Redressal Mechanism, a Digital Media Code of Ethics, and the due diligence that an intermediary (including a social media intermediary) must undertake when performing its duties.

Due Diligence To Be Followed By An Intermediary:

Inform users of the intermediary’s computer resource not to host, display, upload, publish, update, store, transmit, modify or share any information that belongs to another person, is defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, invades another’s privacy, is harmful to children, infringes any patent, trademark, copyright, or other proprietary rights, impersonates another person, or otherwise violates any of the intermediary’s rules and regulations, privacy policies, to threaten, intimidate, or otherwise harass someone for personal benefit or to harm someone else.

Inform users of the consequences of not adhering to the intermediary’s rules and regulations, privacy policy, or user agreement periodically (at least once per year), including the immediate termination of users’ access or usage rights to the computer resource, the removal of non-compliant information, or both.

It is forbidden to host, keep, or publish any information that is illegal under current law or that could jeopardize India’s sovereignty and integrity.

If a user’s information is gathered for the purpose of registering with a computer resource, the information will be kept for 180 days following the user’s cancellation or withdrawal of their registration.

ASAP, but no later than 72 hours after receiving an order, provide information in its possession or under its control to the government agency that is legitimately authorized for investigative, protective, or cyber security activities for the purpose of verifying the identity or for the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of offenses.

Make sure not to deploy, install, modify the technical configuration of a computer resource or participate in any act that could alter or have the potential to alter the resource’s regular course of operation from what it is designed to execute, thereby breaking any current laws.

In accordance with the policies and procedures outlined in the IT (The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team & Manner of Performing Functions and Duties) Rules, 2013, report cyber security incidents and share pertinent information with the ICERT.

Grievance Redressal Mechanism Of Intermediary

The intermediary must make sure to prominently display the name of the grievance officer, his contact information, and the method by which a user or victim may file a complaint regarding a violation of this rule or any other issues relating to the computer resources made available by it on its website and mobile-based applications.

The additional due diligence that has to be observed by significant social media intermediaries are:

● A prominent social media intermediary must exercise the additional due diligence listed below while performing its duties within three months after receiving notice.

(i) designate a Chief Compliance Officer who will be in charge of ensuring Act compliance;

(ii) designate a nodal point of contact for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, cooperation with law enforcement agencies and personnel to guarantee adherence to their orders or requests made in accordance with statutory provisions or rules enacted thereunder.

Note: A “nodal contact person” is an employee of a prominent social media intermediary who lives in India and is not the Chief Compliance Officer.

(iii) designate a Resident Grievance Officer, who will be in charge of carrying out the duties listed in the Grievance Redressal Mechanism of Intermediary, subject to subsection (b).

(iv) publish a periodic compliance report each month detailing complaints received, actions are taken, and the number of specific communication links or informational sections that the intermediary has blocked or removed as a result of any proactive monitoring carried out using automated methods.

● A significant social media intermediary that offers services primarily in the form of messaging must make it possible, as may be necessary by court order, to identify the first author of the content on its computer resource.

● Any significant social media intermediary must make it abundantly clear to its users that the information is being advertised, sponsored, marketed, owned, or exclusively controlled before it is used. This is especially important if the intermediary offers any information-related services or transmits information on behalf of another party on its computer resource for direct financial gain in a way that increases the visibility of the information.

● A major social media intermediary shall work to implement technology-based measures to proactively identify information that represents any act or simulation in any form of child sexual abuse, depicting rape or conduct, whether implicit or explicit, or any information that is exactly identical in content to information that has previously been accessed or removed to which has been disabled on the computer resource of such intermediary, & shall display a notice to any user who accesses such information.

● For the purpose of accepting communications addressed to it, the significant social media intermediary shall have a physical contact address in India advertised on its website, mobile application, or both.

● Establish a proper system for the collection of complaints and grievances relating to rule violations.

● Allow users who sign up for or use their services in India to voluntarily verify their accounts using any suitable mechanism, including their active Indian mobile number. Where a user voluntarily verifies their account, they must be given a demonstrable and visible mark of verification, which must be visible to all users of the service.

Additional due diligence to be observed by an intermediary in relation to news & current affairs content

Publishers of news & current affairs content must provide the Ministry with information regarding their user accounts on the services of the intermediary in addition to the intermediary’s general terms of service, which must be published in a clear and simple manner in a suitable location on the publisher’s website, mobile application, or both.

Codes of ethics and procedure and safeguard in relation to digital media:

Applicability: Apply to the following entities or person are

(a) the publishers of news and current affairs content and 

(b) the publishers of online curated content.

Furnishing and processing of the grievance

● Any person who has a complaint about information published by a publisher that violates the Code of Ethics may submit that complaint through the grievance system.

● Within twenty-four hours of receiving the complaint for information and record, the publisher must create and issue an acknowledgment of the complaint for the benefit of the complainant.

The self-regulating mechanism at Level I

A publisher will—

(a) create a process for grievance resolution and select a grievance officer headquartered in India who is in charge of resolving complaints received by him;

(b) prominently display on its website or user interface, as applicable, the name and contact information of its grievance officer as well as the contact information for its grievance redressal procedure;

(c) make sure the Grievance Officer decides on each grievance it receives within fifteen days and notifies the complainant of that judgment within the allotted time frame.

(d) adhere to the rules and regulations of a self-regulating body, as described in Rule 12.

● Online curated content must be categorized by its publisher into the subcategories listed in the Schedule, taking into account its context, theme, tone, impact, and intended audience. The grade for each category is determined by evaluating the applicable content descriptors.

● Every publisher of online curated content is required to make sure that users are informed of the rating and an explanation of the relevant content descriptors before they access any such content. This information must be prominently displayed to users at the appropriate location, as the case may be.

Furnishing of information

● For the purpose of facilitating communication and coordination, a publisher of current affairs and news content, as well as an online curated content publisher that operates in the Indian subcontinent, must provide the Ministry with information about the specifics of its entity (within thirty days of the publication of the Rules).

● Every month, the publisher of online curated content and news and current affairs content must release a periodic compliance report outlining the specifics of grievances received and actions taken in response.

The IT ministry issued Several blocking orders, according to the social intermediary, which were “overboard and arbitrary, failing to provide warning to originators of the content.” As a result, the social intermediary decided to seek judicial intervention. These are all the facts and important reasons, and laws that might have led to the writ petition that Twitter had filed against the government of India.

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