In Open Confrontation With Indian Govt, Twitter Says Centre’s Order “Not Consistent With Indian Laws”

Earlier, the Indian government had asked Twitter to remove 1,178 listed handles that it said belonged to Pakistani and Khalistani users.

After the Indian government asked it to block 1,178 accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation on the farmer protests and provocative content, microblogging website Twitter today said that the orders were inconsistent with Indian law and that for some accounts, it would restrict access within India instead of an outright ban. In a blog that explained the steps taken by the social media giant Twitter noted that the values that underpin the Open Internet and free expression “are increasingly under threat around the world”. Government sources, in an escalating confrontation, say Twitter has to comply with the law of the land and warn of action.

Twitter, in its blog post, said: “We have withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under our Country Withheld Content policy within India only. These accounts continue to be available outside of India.”

“Because we do not believe that the actions we have been directed to take are consistent with Indian law, and, in keeping with our principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. To do so, we believe, would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law,” it said.

Twitter also underlined that it existed to empower voices to be heard and continued to make improvements to its service so that everyone – no matter their views or perspective – felt safe participating in the public conversation.

“We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve and are actively exploring options under Indian law – both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted. We remain committed to safeguarding the health of the conversation occurring on Twitter, and strongly believe that the Tweets should flow,” Twitter asserted.

It was served with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, Twitter said. “Two were emergency blocking orders that we temporarily complied with but subsequently restored access to the content in a manner that we believe was consistent with Indian law. After we communicated this to MeitY, we were served with a non-compliance notice.”

Twitter, defending its moves, said it took steps to reduce the visibility of hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended search terms. It also said a range of action, including permanent suspension, was taken against more than 500 accounts escalated across all government orders.

Earlier, the Indian government had asked Twitter to remove 1,178 listed handles that it said belonged to Pakistani and Khalistani users and were spreading misinformation on the farmer protests.


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