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What is Safe Harbour Immunity

  • Safe Harbour Immunity is nothing but the protection granted to the intermediaries for the illegal and unlawful acts of a third party.
  • Safe Harbour Immunity exempts intermediaries who host, store and disseminate data from any form of liability except in cases where they are aware of the illegal content and which has not been acted upon in a reasonable period.
  • In India, the Information Technology Act of 2000 provides safe harbour protection to the intermediaries for any third-party content.

Overview

  • Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and Journalist Swati Chaturvedi were alleged to make some derogatory tweets.
  • A petition was filed against Twitter Inc. for its failure to take action against the said tweets.
  • Twitter had told the Delhi High Court that tweets do not come under the category for which Twitter takes actions under its policies, rules and terms of service.
  • In reply to the petition, Twitter held that as an intermediary, tweets were not something that Twitter could be an ‘arbiter’ of.
  • The petition also sought against Twitter for its failure to appoint a Resident Grievance Officer as directed by the MEITy Rules 2021. On this, Twitter submitted that it was directory and not mandatory and further subject to ‘just exceptions’.
  • Twitter also submitted that it had appointed a Resident Grievance Officer on May 28th, however, the said officer withdrew his candidature on June 21st before it could be finalized.
  • It further submitted that it received and acknowledged complaints within 24 hours and disposed of the same within 15 days according to the rules.

MEITy’s Submissions

  • Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, in its affidavit, informed the Hon’ble Delhi High Court that Safe Harbour Immunity is no longer available to Twitter as it hasn’t fully complied with the IT Rules of 2021.
  • Section 79 of the IT Act provides Safe Harbour Immunity to the intermediaries from any third party information, data or communication hosted by it. This means social media giants like Twitter will not be held liable for any misuse of the platform by a third party unless they initiate the transmission or modify the information contained in the transmission.
  • Twitter being a Significant Social Media Intermediary (SSMI) is obligated to comply with the Rules of 2021 to be allowed to avail exemptions from liability u/s 79 of the IT Act.
  • Despite been given 3 months to comply with the Rules, Twitter failed in doing so. And as per Rule 7 of the 2021 rules, provision of Section 79 will not be available in case the intermediary fails to comply with the rules and will be liable for punishment under any law time being in force in respect to the offending content.


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