Published On: Wed, Feb 10th, 2021

Twitter acts on 500 Indian accounts, backs free expression

New Delhi: Twitter on Wednesday said that it has taken a range of enforcement actions, including permanent suspension in certain cases, against more than 500 accounts escalated across orders from the Indian government for the clear violations of its rules.

These accounts, however, will continue to be available outside of India

However, the company said that it does not believe that the actions it has been directed to take by the IT Ministry are consistent with the Indian law.

“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,” the micro-blogging platform reiterated.

The company, facing penal action if does not comply with the directions given by the IT Ministry in three notices to block nearly 1,435 accounts in questions in the wake of the farmers’ protests, said that it has withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under its ‘Country Withheld Content’ policy within India only.

These accounts, however, will continue to be available outside of India.

“We informed the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) of our enforcement actions today. 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,” the company said in a blog post.

Over the course of the last 10 days, Twitter has been served with several separate blocking orders by MeitY under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.

Twitter said that out of these, 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,” the company informed.

On Tuesday, Twitter said it has reached out to Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for a formal dialogue to resolve the deadlock over the removal of bad accounts amid the ongoing farmer protests.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has sent three notices to Twitter, the latest one asking the company to block 1,178 accounts believed to be linked to Khalistan sympathisers and those backed by Pakistan.

In the first notice, MeitY asked Twitter to block 257 accounts using the #ModiPlanningFarmerGenocide hashtag amid the farmers’ protest, under Section 69A of the IT Act.

Twitter suspended some high-profile accounts earlier this month, only to unblock them in a few hours saying that the “content is free speech and newsworthy”.

The IT Ministry also took cognizance of a clear attempt to polarise India when international celebrities with hardly any expertise on Indian affairs extended their support to the protesters agitating against the three new farm laws.

The government also took a serious note of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey “liking” a Tweet asking for an emoji for the hashtag #FarmersProtests.

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