Twitter earns final warning from Indian government following blue-tick purge
Earlier today, Twitter was banned indefinitely in Nigeria. It might meet the same fate in India if it continues escalating its feud with the Indian government. The microblogging platform was given a final chance to comply with the IT Rules, 2021, failing which it will face "consequences," the government stated on Saturday. The ultimatum came after Twitter's blue-tick purge targeting BJP and RSS leadership.
"Twitter Inc. is hereby given one last notice to immediately comply with the Rules, failing which the exemption from liability available under Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000 shall stand withdrawn and Twitter shall be liable for consequences...," said the government in its ultimatum.
The ultimatum came hours after Twitter began removing verification badges belonging to Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu's personal account and those belonging to several high-ranking officials of BJP's spiritual mentor RSS. The blue checkmarks ensure the authenticity of accounts belonging to public figures, so its revocation can be construed as Twitter's attempt to erase the trust between users of the platform and the country's leadership.
It looks like the government has finally had enough of Twitter's defiance. Recently, the Delhi High Court had issued a notice to the microblogging platform for failing to conform to the IT Rules, 2021, which went into effect on May 25. Twitter is in violation of Rule 4, which mandates it to appoint a resident grievance officer to address complaints with objectionable content.
Twitter's non-compliance will force the government to revoke indemnity granted by Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000. Unlike traditional media, which is held responsible for its content, Section 79 prevents platforms such as Twitter from being prosecuted for user-generated content. Without that indemnity, the government can take serious action against Twitter for any seditious or otherwise illegal content posted by its users.
Twitter's war with the Indian government began after it was forced to block objectionable accounts by the government. However, it soon unblocked the accounts, which prompted the Modi government to draft a new Media Ethics Code in an attempt to bring it in line. Twitter has since hit back with its recent blue-tick purge and the "manipulated media" stunt it pulled earlier this month.
Interestingly, although Twitter has told the Delhi High Court that it has appointed a grievance officer, the government has disputed that claim. The onus now lies on the microblogging platform to either convince the courts that it has indeed appointed a grievance officer or face the grave consequences associated with the revocation of Section 79 indemnity.