A day after the Uttar Pradesh Police filed an FIR against Twitter and seven others in connection with a viral video of an attack on an elderly person, a top official said the state police’s cybercrime department has been getting a lot of complaints against the microblogging platform.
Since Twitter doesn’t provide the police with the required information, they are unable to crack cases linked to social media frauds, said superintendent of police, cyber crimes, Triveni Singh. “We don’t know who to talk to or speak to at Twitter when users complain,” he told ET on Thursday.
“If they are operating here, they have to abide by the law. If they are not complying with laws, they have to face the music,” Singh said.
Another law enforcement official ET spoke to said whether the new intermediary guidelines would have an overriding effect on existing IT laws immediately was not fully clear. Fact checkers said Twitter needs skilled in-house hands or external experts to sift out misinformation in order to avert further trouble.
The FIR registered by the police in Ghaziabad is the first against Twitter after the platform did not comply with the new intermediary guidelines. The police said Twitter failed to flag or delete posts even after they issued clarifications negating the alleged communal nature of the attack, and thus contributed to the flaring up of religious tensions.
“Viewing purely from the lens of an investigative journalist and a fact checker, I would say that Twitter has made a colossal mistake of not having domain experts who can fact check content to help it remove harmful content,” said founder of fact-checking platform NewsMobile.in, Saurabh Shukla. “While I can’t comment on the specifics since the case is under investigation, any sensitive content which can trigger communal tensions or could have led to a loss of life should have been taken off immediately,” he added.
Founder of Factly, Rakesh Dubbudu said every social media platform must abide by the law of the land. “Though Twitter came up with a policy for misleading information in the context of Covid-19 in May 2020, we do not know how it is being enforced. We have also been asking how certain posts are labelled while others are not,” he added.
Twitter did not respond to an email seeking comment till the time of going to press on Thursday.
“If you’re not following the guidelines, whether ipso facto Section 79 provisions get dissolved, that is not yet 100 per cent clear,” said special inspector general of police at Maharashtra’s cyber department, Yashasvi Yadav.
“…if it gets dissolved, then the Ghaziabad Police is fully entitled to register the FIR the way they have done it,” he said, adding: “For proper enforcement, the intermediary guidelines should be clearly incorporated in the Act and it should be written that if these guidelines are not followed, then immunity will not be available.”
As per section 79 of the IT Act, social media intermediaries are immune to liability or penalty if they comply with legal requests from public authorities or courts to take down posts.
A fact checker working with Facebook said Twitter needs to clearly explain its policies to users.
“Twitter doesn’t want to work with anyone. This manipulated media tag has also been introduced recently,” he said and added: “They need to tell people at large what is it that they are doing and how they are doing it. Fact-checked posts lead to reduced reach on Facebook. I’m not sure if that happens with the manipulated media tag on Twitter. For good or bad, Facebook has a clear policy.”