Twitter says it has not taken action against media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians
Twitter said it was exploring options under the Indian law — both for Twitter and for accounts that have been impacted.
Twitter on Wednesday said it had not taken action against accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians.
“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 said in a blog post.
Twitter added that it had informed Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India (MeitY) about its enforcement actions on February 10. The company pointed out that it would “maintain dialogue” with the Indian government.
The company, however, added that it had taken a “range of enforcement actions” including permanent suspension in certain cases against more than 500 accounts escalated across all MeitY orders for violating Twitter's rules. It has also withheld a portion of accounts that identified in blocking orders under its Country Withheld Content policy within India only.
“Separate to our enforcement under the Twitter Rules, over the course of the last 10 days, Twitter has been served with several separate blocking orders by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, 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 in a blog post.
Listing out steps it took following the blocking orders by the Indian government, Twitter said it had taken steps to reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content. The steps included barring them from trending section on Twitter or appearing as recommended search.
“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,” Twitter added.
The blog post comes after the company refused to comply with the Indian government's directive to block more than 250 accounts and posts. The government had sought emergency blocking of certain Twitter hashtags that it deemed provocative. Interestingly, Twitter initially complied with the directive but soon restored some of the accounts.
The government warned that the non-compliance, however, could lead to fines or jail. Twitter reportedly sought a meeting with the IT Ministry.
“Safety of our employees is a top priority for us at Twitter. We continue to be engaged with the Government of India from a position of respect and have reached out to the Honourable Minister, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology for a formal dialogue. An acknowledgement to the receipt of the non-compliance notice has also been formally communicated,” a company spokesperson said.
Separately, Twitter was asked to take down 1,178 Pak-Khalistani handles for posting provocative content on the farmers' protest.