Social Media

Twitter explores options under Indian law; defends itself on freedom of speech

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on February 10, 2021

Withheld a portion of the accounts identified in the blocking orders and clarifies that some handles are from outside India

Twitter in a blog post has said that it has informed Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) of its enforcement actions on Wednesday.

"We will continue to maintain a dialogue with the Indian government and respectfully engage with them. 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. We remain committed to safeguarding the health of the conversation occurring on Twitter, and strongly believe that the Tweets should flow," it said in the blog post.

However, it said that some of the accounts are still available outside India.

"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," the company explained.

Served with spate of blocking orders

Over the last ten days, Twitter has been served with several separate blocking orders by the MeitY, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, it said adding 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."

As its earlier statement, the microblogging site said that transparency is the foundation for promoting healthy public conversation on Twitter and earning trust.

"It is critical that people understand our approach to content moderation and how we engage with governments around the world, and that we are transparent about the consequences and the results of this work. Our Transparency Report and Lumen continue to be the places to go to observe trends in the requests governments make of us, and to assess how we operate globally," it said.

It further said that the values that underpin the "Open Internet and free expression are increasingly under threat around the world. Following the reports of violence in New Delhi in recent weeks, we wanted to share a granular update on our proactive efforts to enforce our rules and defend our principles in India. Twitter exists to empower voices to be heard, and we continue to make improvements to our service so that everyone — no matter their views or perspective — feels safe participating in the public conversation."

It said that beginning on 26 January, the company’s global team provided 24/7 coverage and took enforcement action judiciously and impartially on content, Trends, Tweets, and accounts violated the Twitter Rules global policy framework governs every Tweet on the service.

It specifically took action on hundreds of accounts that violated the Twitter Rules, particularly inciting violence, abuse, wishes of harm, and threats that could trigger the risk of offline harm, 'prevented certain terms that violated our rules from appearing in the trends section'.

Tackling misinformation

Twitter also said it had suspended more than 500 accounts engaging in clear examples of platform manipulation and spam. It tackled misinformation based on the highest potential for real-world harm, and prioritised labelling tweets that violated its synthetic and manipulated media policy.

Twitter added that it took a range of enforcement actions — including permanent suspension in some instances — against more than 500 accounts escalated across all MeitY orders for apparent violations of Twitter’s Rules.

"We took steps to reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content, which included prohibiting them from trending on Twitter and appearing as recommended search terms," it added.

Meanwhile, the government has said that "Upon the request of Twitter seeking a meeting with the government, the Secretary IT was to engage with senior management of Twitter. In this light a blog post published prior to this engagement is unusual. Government will share its response soon.

Published on February 10, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor