Twitter’s protection as an intermediary in the hands of the court: Legal experts

Debangana Ghosh Mumbai | Updated on June 16, 2021

Twitter has appointed an interim chief compliance officer

Twitter had an action-packed day today. The micro-blogging site announced the appointment of an interim chief compliance officer, it’s intermediary status reportedly lapsing and the Ghaziabad police filing an FIR against the platform, Congress and journalists on charges of spreading fake news through a video of an elderly man getting lynched in the city.

Legal experts call it an “interesting” case as what unfolds next is hard to decipher and will depend on the court’s decision amidst regulatory haze.

“The court has to decide if Twitter has the protection. Twitter said that they have complied with the IT rules and appointed an interim chief compliance officer. The company won’t be losing its intermediary status as it is granted by the Act based on the nature of the service. The question is whether they will get protection under section 79 (of the IT Act, 2000). That is a conditional protection. It is for the court to decide whether they have complied with the Rules and can get immunity from liability. This determination cannot be made by the Government,” Prasanth Sugathan, legal director, told BusinessLine.

“The court will treat Twitter like any other digital news publication in this scenario. Twitter obviously will fight the case with all its might. Also the timing of the FIR and the MeitY’s statements need to be taken into consideration. All this is coming after Modi and Biden’s meeting at the G7 Summit. This is well-timed. Clearly, otherwise social media freedom would have become an important matter of discussion there. Now in case, things escalate and there’s an arrest made from Twitter, one can even expect the White House to intervene, knowing the US government’s liking for the micro-blogging site,” a source seeking anonymity said.

Sugathan added that once the case it taken to the court, it is unlikely that any government would be allowed to interfere. “If the matter is before court, no third party can interfere even if it is the government or the white house,” he said.

Published on June 16, 2021

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