The Twitter app is loading onto an iPhone in this illustration photo that was taken in Los Angeles, California.
Mike Blake | Reuters
India blamed Twitter for failing to promptly follow government instructions to remove certain content and warned the social media giants that it would have to follow local laws in order to operate in the country.
Department of Electronics and Information Technology secretary Ajay Sawhney met with Monique Meche, vice president of global public policy on Twitter and Jim Baker, deputy general counsel, virtually on Wednesday.
“The secretary expressed his deep disappointment with the Twitter leadership at the way in which Twitter has involuntarily, reluctantly and with great delay adhered to essential parts of the regulation,” the government said in a statement following the meeting.
India ordered Twitter to remove more than 1,100 accounts and posts allegedly spreading misinformation about farmers protesting new agricultural reforms, Reuters reported.
Last month it was reported that protesters clashed with authorities, resulting in hundreds of injuries and one death. Local media reported that journalists and a senior opposition MP were charged with tweeting deaths, but their arrests have been suspended by the Supreme Court.
(Secretary Sawhney) took this opportunity to remind Twitter that India’s constitution and laws are a top priority.
Statement by the Government of India
In a public blog post before the Wednesday meeting, Twitter said the orders were only partially met. Last week, at the behest of the government, the social media site temporarily suspended some accounts, but later restored access “in a manner that we believe is compatible with Indian law”.
The government statement said that New Delhi considers the hashtag on “Farmers Genocide” to be extremely dangerous and unfounded and claims that it is being used to disseminate misinformation about the protests.
It also characterized some of the reports that should be classified as “supported by Khalistan sympathizers and supported by Pakistan”. The government did not provide any concrete evidence to support these claims in its statement.
“(Secretary Sawhney) took this opportunity to remind Twitter that the constitution and laws are the top priority in India. It is expected that those responsible will not only reaffirm, but also continue to advocate, respect for land rights” added the statement.
Twitter said in its blog post it had taken steps to reduce the visibility of hashtags of malicious content and banned more than 500 accounts that contained “clear examples of platform tampering and spam.”
Other accounts listed on government lockdown orders are not available in the country but can be accessed from outside India. The company added that it did not believe the measures that were being taken were compatible with Indian law and declined to restrict the accounts of journalists, activists and politicians.
“In accordance with our principles of defending protected language and freedom of expression, we have not taken any action on accounts made up of media companies, journalists, activists and politicians,” Twitter said on the blog post, adding, “To do We believe that this would violate their fundamental right to freedom of expression under Indian law. “
The IT ministry secretary told Twitter that doing business in India is welcome but that Indian laws must be followed regardless of the social media company’s rules and guidelines, the government statement said.
India is the third largest Twitter market after the USA and Japan and has had more than 17 million users there since January, according to the German data company Statista.
The current dispute with the government puts the US company in a position in which it has to juggle between advocating the freedom of expression of its users and complying with local laws. Reuters reported that Mahima Kaul, Twitter’s top lobbyist in India, stepped down as the company grappled with the growing public relations crisis.
On the flip side, Indian government officials are promoting a native Twitter alternative called the Koo App, and local media reported an increase in the number of users on this website. The IT ministry has advertised its own account on Twitter on the new platform.