- The IT Ministry asked Twitter last week to suspend some accounts for allegedly encouraging disharmony in India
- In a blog, Twitter stated that the principles underpinning the Open Internet and free speech are constantly challenged around the world
- Some of the Twitter handles, according to reports, were automated bots that responded to/distributed information related to the protests of farmers in the country
Twitter, ordered by the government to block 1,178 accounts for allegedly spreading misinformation about the protests of farmers and provocative material, said it had withheld a portion of the accounts today and only within India. The US social media giant also said it had not taken any action on media accounts, journalists, activists and politicians because it violated “the right to freedom of expression under Indian law”.
The blog stated that around the world, the ideals underpinning the Open Internet and free speech are increasingly under attack. Twitter said it wanted to share a granular update on its “proactive efforts to enforce our rules and defend our principles in India” after the news of violence in Delhi during the Republic Day protest.
The government asked Twitter to delete 1,178 handles that it said belonged to Pakistani and Khalistani users and since November had been spreading misinformation about the farmers’ protests outside Delhi. The site told the Department of Electronics and Information Technology today of its action.
Twitter in a blog post while talking about the accounts that were requested to be suspended said, ” A portion of the accounts listed in the blocking orders under our Country Withheld Content Policy were withheld only within India. Such accounts remain available outside of India.”
The blog post by Twitter which said, “Since we do not agree that the acts, we have been directed to take are compliant with Indian law, and we have not taken any action on accounts made up of news media outlets, journalists, activists, and politicians in compliance with our principles of protecting protected speech and freedom of expression. To do so, we conclude, will, under Indian law, violate their constitutional right to free speech.”
The microblogging platform said it existed to enable voices to be heard and to continue to make changes to its service so that everyone felt comfortable engaging in the public discourse, regardless of their viewpoints or perspective.
The blog post also said, ” We will continue to advocate for the right to free expression on behalf of the people we serve and actively explore solutions under Indian law – both for Twitter and for the affected accounts. We remain committed to safeguarding the health of Twitter conversations and firmly believe that tweets should flow.”
Under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, Twitter said it was issued with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. ” Two were emergency blocking orders that we briefly complied with but then restored access to the information in a manner that we believe was consistent with Indian law. We were issued with a non-compliance notice after we conveyed this to MeitY.”
Twitter, defending its moves, said it took measures to decrease the exposure of hashtags containing harmful content, including removing them from Twitter trends and appearing as suggested search words.