The parley over the social media networking sites and the government has been vehement and clamorous, however, Twitter in particular with India’s government over the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, has been defined by two distinct recitals.
For one narrative the dispute lies on compromising the Indian sovereignty and focuses on the arrogance of a foreign company that ignores our laws. While the other proposes the act to be a wicked and criminal endeavour to vanquish dissent and free speech. It cannot be discredited that for any company/organization operating within the Indian Territory, it is essential for the said organization/company to comply with Indian Law. The basic business tenets enshrined in various international treaties also endorse the said mandate. Moreover, the right course of action for Twitter should be inclined towards legal remedies available to it, if it finds the Intermediary Guidelines to be unconstitutional, and not ignoring the law, showcasing the rejection merely on grounds of obstinacy.
Further, Twitter is an independent private company operating in the Indian Territory, and hence, is qualified to frame and implement policies and rules for those who wish to use its platform, as long as these rules and regulations don’t violate the Indian laws. The considerable point of argument is that Twitter has complied with the spirit of the Intermediary Guidelines by appointing a Resident Grievance Officer, however, it is restraining itself from appointing permanent employees as resident grievance and nodal officers, which is the literal requirement of the law.
What can a Resident Grievance Officer help?
A Resident Grievance Officer will deal with and resolve the complaints received from India as per law. This is notwithstanding if the said Resident Grievance Officer is a permanent employee or on a contract or for that matter on deputation.
The question one may ask is what is stopping Twitter to appoint the said Resident Grievance Officer as a permanent employee as per the mandate of the Intermediary Guidelines. The most plausible explanation to it might be due to a raid conducted by the law enforcement agencies on its offices and further to give in a letter in a dispute which arose due to labeling of a tweet by a prominent member of India’s ruling party.
The state of affairs makes one wonder about the futuristic stance of the Indian Government on the present shindig with Twitter. Further, the Government of India might stand stiff on its stance and insist upon Twitter to follow the mandate prescribed in the guideline, or shall it lose the status of an intermediary. However, if the status of intermediary is revoked, it shall be an unfaltering exit for Twitter from India to the fashion similar to the exit of Coca-Cola when it was asked to share the secret formula of its drink. This might impact and strain Indian relations with the US. Such a crude exit of Twitter, a platform having a lot to do with the constitutional right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, shall further reduce our rankings on global democratic and freedom indices.
Thus, it is advisable for courts to interfere as there is an arguable case that the guidelines are excessively broad and possibly unconstitutional. In short, Twitter must comply with Indian law, while the law and Indian government must comply with India’s Constitution and act with caution.
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