Tech billionaire Elon Musk, in a court filing, has noted that Twitter’s ongoing conflict with Indian IT laws was one of the contributing reasons behind his backing out of the $44 billion deal to acquire the micro-blogging platform.
Disclosed in the 100-plus pages in the latest filings on the Musk vs. Twitter case, Musk’s legal team noted that Twitter’s failure to disclose litigation with an investigation by the Indian government was a contributing factor. As per the filing, Musk suggests that Twitter should follow the local law of India. The court filing noted, “While Musk is a proponent of free speech, he believes that moderation of Twitter should hew close to the laws of the countries in which Twitter operates.’’
This comes at a time when the microblogging site petitioned the Karnataka High Court in July, challenging certain blocking orders issued by the Indian Government under Section 69A of the Indian IT Act, directing Twitter to remove certain content from its platform, including content from politicians and journalists.
Responding to Musk’s specific allegations in the Delaware court filings, Twitter noted that the court challenge contemplated by the law itself allows companies or individuals to challenge government blocking orders. Twitter further notes that the challenge is under the ambit of its global practices of challenging government requests or laws where such requests are not properly scoped under local law. Moreover, Twitter denies Musk’s allegations that the Karnataka challenge is in relation to any investigation by the Indian government.
While Twitter is not as popular in India as Facebook or Snapchat, by sheer numbers and penetration potential, it is still a major market for the microblogging site. Moreover, Musk’s comments come at a time when Twitter has been repeatedly clashing with the Indian government on the country’s local IT laws. Besides the challenge in Karnataka High Court, Twitter has also drawn the Indian government’s ire on this issue previously. Last year, amidst much tension, Twitter finally appointed a grievance redressal officer in India and submitted its transparency report, after the Indian government threatened to withdraw its immunity as a social media intermediary.
Internet researcher Srinivas Kodali said, “Musk’s recent set of reasons for backing away from the $44 billion deal is another set of excuses presented by Musk to avoid paying damages. Twitter’s challenge to government take-down orders is compliance with local laws as Twitter seeks judicial oversight over the IT rules. Moreover, Musk’s comments contradict his previous stance where he committed to absolute free speech on Twitter under his ownership.”
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