Twitter on Wednesday released a blog post to provide updates on its response to blocking orders from the Indian government. The company said it believed actions directed by the government for blocking accounts were inconsistent with Indian law. However, Twitter mentioned that it did take action on hundreds of accounts beginning January 26 — including suspension of more than 500 accounts. The latest update comes just days after the government reportedly warned the US microblogging platform it would face penal action in response to its operations during the ongoing farmers’ protest in the country.
To give clarity on its efforts defending free speech alongside staying compliant with the government, Twitter said in the blog post that its global team provided “24/7 coverage and took enforcement action judiciously and impartially” on content, trends, tweets, and accounts beginning January 26.
Twitter noted that over the course of the last 10 days, it had been served with “several separate blocking orders” by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act.
“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 said.
Twitter said that it took steps to reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from the trending section and appearing as recommended search terms. It also said that it took enforcement actions against more than 500 accounts escalated across all MeitY orders. Those actions include permanent suspension in certain cases.
However, Twitter underlined that it didn’t take any action on accounts related to media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians. The company said that it believed that by taking actions on such accounts would “violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.”
Twitter also said that earlier on Wednesday it withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders under the company’s Country Withheld Content policy within the country.
“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,” it said.
Twitter said that it informed MeitY of its enforcement actions on Wednesday and would continue to maintain dialogue with the government.
“We will continue to advocate for the right of free expression on behalf of the people we serve. We are exploring options under Indian law — both for Twitter and for the accounts that have been impacted,” the company said.
The fresh move by Twitter comes following the government reportedly asked the platform to remove over 1,000 accounts that were allegedly spreading misinformation about the farmers’ protest. On Monday, the company said that it was seeking talks with the technology minister over the government orders.
In response to the blog published by Twitter, MeitY on its Koo handle said, “Upon the request of Twitter seeking a meeting with the Govt., the Secretary IT was to engage with senior management of Twitter. In this light a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusual. Govt. will share its response soon.”
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