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New Delhi: Twitter has lost its legal protection in India from prosecution over users’ posts because of its failure to comply with new rules requiring it to appoint key officers based in the country, government sources said as a case was filed in Uttar Pradesh against the social media giant over Tweets on an assault that the police say attempted to incite communal trouble.

Twitter has not yet complied with all the provisions of the rules that came into force on May 25, sources in the Ministry of Electronics and IT said. “Due to their non-compliance, their protection as an intermediary is gone. Twitter is liable for penal actions against any Indian law just as any publisher is,” the sources said.

The first case holding Twitter responsible for third-party content was filed last night in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, in connection with an alleged assault on an elderly Muslim man on June 5. Twitter has been accused in a First Information Report (FIR) of not removing “misleading” content linked to the incident.

The man, Sufi Abdul Samad, had alleged that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant “Vande Matram” and “Jai Shri Ram” by a group that assaulted him. The UP police say he was lying, that it was not a communal incident as implied in tweets; the man was attacked by six men — Hindus and Muslims – who were upset over amulets he had sold them, according to the police.

The police FIR charges Twitter and several journalists for inciting “communal sentiments” with posts sharing the man’s allegations.

The police also say they had shared a press release on the night of June 14 on Twitter giving details and refuting the communal angle but despite the clarification, the tweets were not deleted and Twitter did not act to have the tweets removed.

“Since they do not enjoy any protection and they did not flag this video as manipulated media, they are liable for penal action,” government sources said.

The government said Twitter is the only tech platform that has not complied with rules that require major digital platforms to appoint India-based officers including a Chief Compliance Officer.

On Tuesday, Twitter had said it had appointed an interim Chief Compliance Officer and would soon share details with the IT Ministry. A Twitter spokesperson said the company “continues to make every effort” to comply with the new guidelines and is keeping the IT Ministry apprised of progress at every step of the process.

Twitter had initially expressed concern about what it called “the potential threat to freedom of expression” when the new rules came into effect last month.

Earlier this month, the government had given Twitter a stern “last notice” to fall in line, saying its refusal to do so demonstrated its “lack of commitment and efforts” towards providing a safe experience for the people of India on its platform.

“Despite being operational in India for more than a decade, it is beyond belief that Twitter Inc has doggedly refused to create mechanism that will enable the people of India to resolve their issues on the platform in a timely and transparent manner and through fair processes, by India based, clearly identified resources,” the Ministry of Electronics and IT had said.
(The story is based on inputs from NDTC)

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