Twitter may lose legal protections in India if it doesn't follow new rules

The technology ministry reportedly gave Twitter a final warning.

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Twitter could face losing its liability protections in India, which reportedly gave the company "one last notice to immediately comply" with new social media rules. The Electronics and Information Technology Ministry sent a letter to Twitter stating the company had yet to adhere to the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code.

The rules were announced in February and came into effect on May 26th. The ministry wrote to Twitter on both that date and May 28th, but it said in a letter over the weekend that the company's responses "neither address the clarifications sought by this ministry nor indicate full compliance with the rules," according to Reuters.

The regulations are centered around content regulation on social media. Social media companies are required to delete posts authorities deem unlawful within 36 hours and to aid in police investigations. They must also have systems to remedy grievances and hire employees in certain roles: a chief compliance officer, a round-the-clock point person for law enforcement and a grievance officer, who must acknowledge user complaints within a day.

The latest letter reportedly claimed Twitter hadn't told the ministry about its chief compliance officer and that its point person and grievance officer were not employees as required by the regulations. The ministry is said to have told Twitter that failure to comply will result in "unintended consequences." Those could include Twitter losing an exemption to be held liable for content that users post (similar to Section 230 protection in the US). Such a move could lead to Twitter facing lawsuits over content.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Twitter said, “to keep our service available, we will strive to comply with applicable law in India. But, just as we do around the world, we will continue to be strictly guided by principles of transparency, a commitment to empowering every voice on the service, and protecting freedom of expression and privacy under the rule of law."

The relationship between Twitter and India has fractured somewhat in recent weeks. Following a request from the government in April, Twitter hid dozens of tweets that criticized the country's response to COVID-19

Around the time the new rules came into effect, Twitter expressed “concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police” and “the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve.” Police visited Twitter's New Delhi office after the company labeled a tweet from a governing party spokesman as containing “manipulated media.”

Meanwhile, WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over the rules. It said the law would require it to make users' messages "traceable." WhatsApp claims the law is unconstitutional.