Has Twitter actually lost its 'legal shield' in India?

Telangana tops in twitter
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Telangana tops in twitter

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With IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad slamming Twitter once again, ironically in a series of tweets, leading experts on Wednesday

With IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad slamming Twitter once again, ironically in a series of tweets, leading experts on Wednesday began a debate on whether the micro-blogging platform has actually lost its "legal shield" in the country from prosecution over posts.

There is no doubt that India needs to ensure that the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 do not become a mere paper tiger and are effectively implemented.

However, can the country stipulate stringent liabilities against social media firms like Twitter for failing to comply with its directions?

By virtue of Rule 7 of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) rules 2021, the moment any intermediary including any significant social media intermediary does not comply with the IT rules, they automatically lose their statutory exemption from legal liability.

"Further, they become liable for being punished for various offences under the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. In this case, Twitter by not complying with the IT rules 2021 has lost its statutory immunity after the expiry of 90 days from February 25," leading cyberlaw expert Pavan Duggal told IANS.

According to him, Twitter no longer has the "suraksha kavach" or statutory exemption from legal liability.

"This effectively means that they are liable to be sued in civil and criminal actions across the country and they are liable to defend each one of them for third party data or information made available by them," Duggal added.

However, according to non-profit Internet Freedom Foundation, the "intermediary status" is not a registration that is granted by the government.

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