Twitter Caves to India’s Regulation, Retains Authorized Immunity

On Tuesday, it was revealed that India’s IT ministry announced in a filing with the New Delhi High Court that the social media site Twitter had lost its legal immunity to contributions from its users in the country. The choice came after India introduced new technology regulation in May and Twitter failed to comply.

That statement was the first time the Indian government officially stated that Twitter had lost its immunity, despite having pointed out the non-compliance many times.

It seems to have done the trick: Twitter follows just a few days later.

What Twitter agrees with

Many of the requirements are administrative: Twitter has appointed an interim chief compliance officer, plans to appoint a complaints officer in a matter of days, and will set up an office in India within eight weeks, according to a lawyer representing the social media giant.

Twitter regularly creates user complaints. It will also be censored by the Government of India – if asked to do so, under penalty of imprisonment for those executives who fail to comply.

The social media platforms that have already given their consent to this type of supervision include Google, Facebook and WhatsApp, although WhatsApp took the time to sue the government over the new regulation back in May.

What does that mean?

Here’s how Bloomberg sums up the power that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has under the new technology regulation:

“Officials have urged Facebook and Twitter this year to remove hundreds of posts, divulge sensitive user information, and submit to a regulatory regime that provides potential jail sentences for executives if companies fail to comply.”

India’s June 2020 TikTok ban is further evidence that the country is serious about determining what India’s people are up to online. Twitter’s surrender suggests that social media companies feel it’s not worth a fight to keep going.

Another takeaway here: Twitter really doesn’t want to lose the liability protection it currently enjoys, which makes lifting legal immunity a very effective stick for governments looking to exercise more control over the platform.

Big tech takes a setback

2021 marks another year as governments around the world keep tightening the screws on social media platforms and the giant tech companies that operate them, with the US, UK, EU and Australia all considering regulation.

Laws have been lax for a while, but the US only tabled five new bills last month after a lengthy antitrust investigation. We explained earlier what each of them would like to achieve, and the possible impact could be good for healthy competition.

Will the results be positive if the content is put in place with the necessary safeguards? Will they be negative, prevent free speech, and give governments a back door to private user data? Or will they be a combination of both? We have yet to find out.

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