Twitter Faces Government Fire, Sees FIR In Uttar Pradesh: 10-Point Guide

The first case in which Twitter can face charges for third party content was filed last night in Uttar Pradesh in connection with an alleged assault on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad on June 5.

Twitter Faces Government Fire, Sees FIR In Uttar Pradesh: 10-Point Guide

Twitter has been accused in a FIR of not removing "misleading" content linked to the incident.

New Delhi: Twitter no longer has legal protection in India from prosecution over users' posts as it has failed to comply with new IT rules, the government said today as the social media giant, in a global first, faced charges of inciting communal trouble.

Here's your 10-point cheatsheet in this big story:

  1. Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in posts on Twitter as well as its Indian rival Koo, said Twitter was given "multiple opportunities to comply" but it deliberately chose non-compliance.

  2. Though Mr Prasad's tweets did not directly say whether Twitter had lost intermediary protections, he shared a news article that headlined "Twitter is no longer an intermediary". This means Twitter may no longer be eligible to seek liability exemptions as an intermediary or the host of user content in India due to its failure to comply with the rules that came into effect on May 26, which require major social media sites to appoint officers based in India.

  3. Twitter has refused to comment but it said on Monday it was keeping the government apprised of the steps it was taking. "An interim Chief Compliance Officer has been retained and details will be shared with the Ministry directly soon," it said.

  4. The first case in which Twitter can face charges for third party content was filed last night in Uttar Pradesh in connection with an alleged assault on an elderly Muslim man in Ghaziabad on June 5. Twitter has been accused in a First Information Report (FIR) of not removing "misleading" content linked to the incident. The charges it faces include "intent to a riot, promoting enmity and criminal conspiracy".

  5. 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 has refuted his claims and has asserted that it was not a communal incident as implied in tweets.

  6. The police say the man was attacked by six people -- Hindus and Muslims - who were angry with him for allegedly selling fake good luck charms. The police FIR charges Twitter, several journalists and Congress leaders for inciting "communal sentiments" with posts sharing the man's allegations. Tweets were shared with a clear motive to "provoke communal sentiments", says the FIR, and adds that the "misleading" posts were re-tweeted by thousands.

  7. The man's family, however, countered the police version, alleging "four hours" of torture including hate attacks. His son denied that he sold amulets and said: "No one in our family does this business. We are carpenters. The police are not saying the right thing - let them investigate and prove it." 

  8. "What happened in UP was illustrative of Twitter's arbitrariness in fighting fake news. While Twitter has been over enthusiastic about its fact checking mechanism, its failure to act in multiple cases like UP is perplexing as well as points towards its inconsistency in fighting misinformation," Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

  9. Mr Prasad said in a country with varied culture like India, "with the amplification of social media, even a small spark can cause a fire, especially with the menace of fake news".

  10. Digital advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation, however, says it is only up to courts, and not the government, to decide whether companies such as Twitter remain intermediaries for alleged non-compliance. The intermediary status of social media platforms is a 'technical' qualification, it said. According to the IT Act of 2000, Twitter and other intermediaries will still be immune from liability if they comply with legal takedown requests of user posts from courts and public authorities.