Information TechnologyIntermediary Liability

Delhi Police files FIR against Twitter in Child Pornography case

In the beginning of June, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had filed a complaint with the Delhi Police in a case of child pornography. It alleged that Twitter had provided false information about cases of child pornography, and violated the POCSO Act.

It said that when it approached Twitter India about cases of child pornography on its platform, it replied that it was not responsible for the issue. However, it said that Twitter Inc, based in the United States was the entity responsible for it. Based on this, the NCPCR had asked the Delhi Police to register an FIR under Section 199 of the IPC- for making a false statement in an enquiry run by the commission. It further found Twitter to have contravened Section 11, 15, 19, of the POCSO Act, and asked the police to take action.

Lousy response by the Police

The NCPCR, in its notice dated 29.05.2021, had requested the Delhi Police to act on its complaint within 7 days. However, till 25th June the Delhi Police did not respond to the request, despite a subsequent reminder on 08.06.2021.

On 25th June, the NCPCR summoned the DCP, Cyber Cell, to appear before it on 29th June, i.e. today. In the evening, ANI tweeted to inform about an FIR filed by the Delhi Police in the case.

Speaking to ANI on the issue, NCPCR Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said:

“Twitter India is not ready to that its content, pornographic per se, is unsafe for kids. We also found that they lied to us about Twitter Inc. not linked to them. Two of its directors are salaried employees of Twitter Inc. On probe, we also found that Twitter Inc had 99% shares in Twitter India. Case registered under POCSO Act against them and accordingly, we will appeal in the court”

Safe Harbor and POCSO Compliance

Twitter is an intermediary platform that benefits from the IT Act’s safe harbor. This means Twitter is only a facilitator of communication, and thus cannot be held liable for the content that is shared on the platform. However, they must undertake prescribed due diligence, which means coordinating with authorities and give/ block illegal content.

However, in its tussle with the new intermediary rules, Twitter at last appointed a Grievance Officer, but the official has since quit his job. Unless Twitter complies with the rules, it will be exposed to litigation. The UP Police has already registered an FIR against Twitter & 8 others for spreading misinformation.

Under Section 19 of the POCSO Act, Twitter is required to submit a complaint with the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police as soon as Twitter’s personnel come across any content which is sexually exploitative of children. Section 21(2) provides that any failure to report the case the in-charge of the company shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year and with a fine.

Twitter has not filed any such complaint with the authorities. Even the reply from Twitter India reflects its lethargic approach towards reducing such incidents.

Lastly, news reports are citing that the FIR also contains relevant sections from the Information Technology Act. In this regard Section 67B attains importance- laying down severe punishment- up to five years imprisonment or/ and fine up to Rs. 10 lakh.

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Rohit Ranjan Praveer

Rohit is a practicing advocate at Delhi. Beginning as a tech enthusiast, Rohit always had a keen interest in computer forensics and information security. Building upon these fundamentals, he has undertaken extensive research on various techno-legal topics and continues his pursuit pass on valuable information to the masses, with a zeal to build something that outlasts him.​

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